Idioms Tell Us How Much Teeth Matter in Speech

A recent comic by “graphic columnist” Larry Paros focused on the origins of the phrase “to chew the fat,” but along the way just misses mentioning how important teeth are to speech. Your teeth are vital to your ability to speak clearly, and should be properly maintained.

Chewing the Fat

As with most idioms, no one is completely sure of the origins of the phrase to chew the fat, but Paros focuses on a likely one. He points to sailors who on long voyages spent a lot of time chewing on dried pork rations, likely with a lot of gristle as well as fat.

He also links this to the lack of nutrition in fat as being comparable to the lack of content in most sailors’ conversations (and all conversations in general). Paros also talks about ruminating as thinking and the origin of the sound bite, but the only link he makes to the actual act of chewing is to the jaw muscles, which certainly matter, but he barely references teeth, which are vital to any act of chewing.

Bite Your Tongue

Fotolia_71166398_Subscription_Monthly_MWhen we talk about sound bites, or any other bite in terms of speaking, we are explicitly talking about the teeth. If you “bite your tongue,” what is doing the biting? We also talk about people “lying through their teeth,” because some people are able to smile and be a villain, though really, when anyone lies, it always comes through their teeth.

But we emphasize it because it is teeth that give energy and vitality to our speech. When someone “sinks their teeth” into anything, they are doing it with determination and gusto. When a person receives a thorough talking-to, they are being “chewed out,” and any words that are said to be particularly potent can be described as “biting criticism.”

On the other hand, talking that doesn’t have much purpose is described as “beating your gums,” “flapping your lips,” or “wagging your tongue.”

A Literal Connection

Although these are only metaphors, they are a recognition that your teeth are literally vital to your ability to speak. We’ve referred to it briefly in mentioning that cheap cosmetic dentistry can impair your ability to speak, but worn, damaged, or missing teeth can also make it hard for you to be understood. If you want to be a clear speaker, it’s vital that you maintain or repair your teeth.

If you are looking for reconstructive dentistry to correct tooth problems that may be affecting your clarity, please call 310-275-5325 for an appointment with a Beverly Hills cosmetic dentist at Ravon Knopf.

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