Science Of Kissing: Kissing Facts, Kisses In History & ‘Kiss’ Etymology
Have you ever wondered why we kiss? What’s the history behind kissing? There’s quite a lot of history behind the human activity of kissing, as it happens. As well as the romantic and passionate elements of smooching, the scientific side of kissing is fascinating. There’s even a word for these kissing facts: the science of kissing is called philematology.
Let’s start with the physical aspects of sharing a kiss. Did you know that when two people kiss, they can exchange 80 million bacteria? Another good reason to make sure you’ve brushed your teeth first. Having said that, kissing is in itself surprisingly good for teeth. Simply anticipating a kiss increases the flow of saliva to the mouth. This is a fantastic bonus, because plaque-busting saliva helps remove food particles and the bacteria which causes cavities, as well as neutralising harmful acids.
The motion and mechanics of kissing is almost identical to suckling, which puts a bit of a Freudian slant on things. What do you do with your head while kissing? Do you find it more comfortable to tilt your head one way rather than the other? As it happens, two-thirds of people tip their head to the right when they kiss. Scholars believe this preference starts in the womb – another indication that we could be hard-wired to enjoy kissing as a display of affection.
A contrary indication to this is the fact that some cultures don’t seem to engage in kissing at all. Some Central-American, Sub-Saharan African, New Guinean & Amazonian cultures show no signs of kissing being practised.
Kissing For Fitness
Kissing for fitness certainly sounds a lot more pleasant than slogging it out on the gym treadmill. The sad news, from the science of kissing files, is that even passionate kissing only burns about 3 calories a minute. And a minute is a long time when you’re lip-locked and tongue tied. There are some who claim kissing burns 6.4 calories a minute, but there’s not much evidence for this.
If you’re feeling hungry after all that calorie-burning, it might be time for a snack. A Hershey’s Kiss has 22 calories… it will take you 5 minutes of walking or plenty of passionate kissing to burn it off, though.
In better news, passionate or French kissing uses all 34 muscles in the face which can help keep you looking youthful for longer. A quick peck only uses two muscles, by comparison.
Did you know we have a ‘kissing muscle’? The orbicularis oris is the most important muscle in kissing, because it allows your lips to purse ready for a kiss. Pucker up!
The History Of Kissing
How did human kissing start? It’s thought that, well before the age of blenders and food processors, mothers passed chewed solid food to their babies during weaning. In this way, the first type of ‘kiss’ was created in our history of kissing.
The Romans had plenty of love for kissing (and various sexual acts, but we’ll talk about those another day). They created three distinct categories of kissing:
Osculum – a kiss on the cheek
Basium – a kiss on the lips
Savolium – a deep kiss
But apart from that, what have the Romans ever done for us? 😉
Actually, we can also look to the Romans for why we are invited to kiss at the end of a wedding ceremony. A kiss was used in Roman times to seal or sign a contract – and as a wedding is a contract, this began the entire ‘you may now kiss your bride/husband’ tradition.
Do Animals Kiss?
Kissing in the animal kingdom is extremely rare, admittedly. But common chimpanzees have been seen kissing and hugging after conflict – they kiss with open mouths, but not with tongues. Their cousins, the bonobos, kiss more often. They are a highly sexual type of ape, and kiss with tongues.
Where does the word “kissing” come from? Kissing originates from the old English word “cyssan”, which is from the proto-Germanic “kussijanan” or “kuss”. This is probably an onomatopoeic derivation, based on the sound kissing can make.
Do you sign your letters with a kiss? You may think that the X you put at the end of a letter or correspondence signifies a kiss, but it originally had a religious meaning. Before it came to represent the contact of the lips during a kiss, this X was linked to the Christian cross – meaning that what you’d communicated was indeed true, asserted ‘in Christ’s name’. This is also why Christmas came to be commonly abbreviated to Xmas.
In less ‘pure and holy’ news, the insulting slang “kiss my ass” -which many assume to be a fairly recent phrase- can be seen in use as far back as 1705.
Most of us have heard of “Eskimo” kisses, but the truth about the origin of this phrase is still largely unknown. Early Arctic explorers saw the Inuit people greeting each other by rubbing noses, and therefore the term “Eskimo kissing” was born. This traditional Inuit greeting is, in fact, called a ‘kunik’, which is a way for family members and loved ones to express affection. It is not done to avoid mouths or tongues freezing together, which is a common myth.
“French kissing”, on the other hand, is a phrase which didn’t originate in France at all. It came into the English language in around 1923 as a bit of an insult to the French, who were thought to be a bit free and easy, a bit loose and a bit overly-obsessed with sex. In France, this type of kissing was called a “tongue kiss” or a “soul kiss” – as it was thought mouth-to-mouth kissing mingled two lovers’ souls.
In recent times, the French themselves have adopted a verb meaning “French kissing” into their vocabulary: galocher. It literally means: “to kiss with tongues”.
Kissing In The Media
You might think kissing isn’t that big a deal with its high visibility and regularity in the media; on TV and in films/at the movies. There are a few exceptional and memorable examples of kissing in the media, though, which helped seal kissing as the ultimate romantic display of affection.
What about a marathon kissing sesh? You may find you’re struggling to keep going after a minute or two, but the longest kiss ever recorded in the science of kissing files was 58 hours, 35 minutes and 58 seconds. Phew. This was achieved by Ekkachai Tiranarat and Laksana Tiranarat, at an event organized by Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Pattaya, in Pattaya, Thailand, on February 12th – 14th 2013.
The very first on-screen kiss was back in 1896, in a film entitled “The May Irwin – John C. Rice Kiss”. The film lasted just 30 seconds, and consisted entirely of a man and woman kissing, close up. For the first gay on-screen kiss, we have to wait until 1922. Cecile B. DeMille’s “Manslaughter” showed the very first on-screen kiss between two people of the same gender.
Kissing is a popular and common way for us to show affection towards one another, whether it’s a platonic peck or a passionate, steamy snog. I enjoy kissing my partner as a way to keep the romance alive between us in a way which doesn’t require complete privacy or clearing some kid-free space in my diary.
Kissing during the day, while mostly busy with other things, can stoke lust and build that anticipation for more, when the time comes. It’s a way to show your feelings when beginning foreplay, to enjoy closeness even with your clothes still on – for as long as that may last. Kissing stops the awkwardness of fumbling to remove those clothes – yours or theirs – while your eyes are closed and your lips are locked in an amorous smooch.
Do you enjoy kissing? I hope you’ve found the history behind and the science of kissing as fascinating as I did during my research of this romantic activity. If you have any other interesting and intriguing kissing facts, feel free to share them in the comments below.
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Wondering about the research and evidence behind the kissing facts in this article? There were far too many links to include in this feature, but a full list of all my cited sources is free to download here.