by Guy Browning
The GuardianThe modern tongue is virtually a prisoner in the mouth. That's why sticking out your tongue is very rude but also rather saucy: it's a kind of entry-level flashing. Tongues are extremely sensitive and can determine thousands of different flavours, including the three used in British cooking.
What food, sex and envelopes used to have in common was that they all involved licking. With self-seal envelopes we are now down to just food and sex, which is a shame because licking a letter before you sent it added an interesting sensual angle to your correspondence with the tax authorities. Self-adhesive stamps have added to the precipitous decline in licking. To be fair, they do make sending your Christmas cards easier because in the past licking 80 stamps was an absolute nightmare unless you had a handy labrador or French boyfriend.
One of the main attractions of ice cream is that you can lick it. People who eat ice cream with their teeth and chew it are slightly missing the point. An excellent training aid for licking is the jam doughnut as it's impossible to eat one without licking your lips and fingers afterwards. Some people cheat and lick the sugar off first but then the doughnut ends up looking like a hairless chihuahua.
Licking has very little place socially and the rule is never lick a person you haven't already kissed on the lips. Similarly, never lick somebody in the office unless you are on an advanced team-building course. Licking people reveals the wide range of flavours they come in: there's sweet, salty, cheesy, BBQ and prawn cocktail. Or, if they've had a bath recently, mango, pomegranate, seaweed and strawberry. Licking someone after a bath is the equivalent of one portion of fruit and veg.
Before wet wipes, the tongue acted as a mobile cleaning unit. The tongue would be applied to the hanky and the hanky applied to the mess/baby. Even now, a thorough beauty regime can be carried out using nothing more than finger and tongue. Licking is still very important in love-making but you should use moderation. Attempting to lick someone's entire back, for example, especially if they're a large person, will just make you dehydrated, and make the recipient feel as if you're doing some kind of minor paint job.