Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Science and Silliness of Kissing

Imagine if alien visitors asked you to explain the act of kissing. What would you say?

Think about it. If a spaceship full of aliens landed on earth to observe human behavior, how on earth would we explain the act of kissing? One person touches another person with their lips. Not, of course, lips to lips alone. Lips to cheek, lips to neck, lips to – well, just about any other body part can be considered. Imagine the polite but nevertheless obvious squirming with embarrassment that could be involved on either or both sides of the species divide.

An immediate question might be what is the act for? The reply could constitute the making of a list that even the most avid list-seeker on the internet might find overlong. Tongue nevertheless in cheek, most people would associate kissing with love and sexual desire and the aliens would probably accept this as part of our self-evidently bizarre mating habits. When this basic question is elaborated on, however, to include greeting, respect, sympathy, luck giving, affection and, most puzzlingly, false empathy then who would blame our visitors from outer space for turning tail and leaving this planet in a huff?

The origins of the word are old enough – the Old English language gifted the world the word kiss from their own – ‘cyssan’. Origins of the word aside, the reason for this most simple yet complex act to exist is still perplexing philematologists (those who study kissing). They cannot decide whether or not kissing is a learned behavior or if it is instinctive.

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