How long is the average tongue?

Nick Stoeberl Image copyright James Ellerker/Guinness World Re

Californian Nick Stoeberl has just taken over as holder of the world record for the longest tongue. His measures 10.1cm (about 4in) from the tip to the middle of the closed top lip. How does this compare with the average person's tongue, asks Clare Spencer.

Guinness World Records, which will include Stoeberl in the 2015 edition of its famous book, says that the average tongue is 10cm long when measured from the oropharynx - the place in the back of the throat where the tongue begins - to the tip. In other words, the part of Stoeberl's tongue that extends beyond the lips is longer than the average person's tongue in its entirety.

Another way of measuring tongues is from the epiglottis to the tip. The epiglottis is a flap of cartilage found in the mouth behind the tongue. A 1967 study by GB Hopkin at the Orthodontic department of the University of Edinburgh's dental school found and adult's mean average tongue length, measured this way, is 8.5cm (3.3in) for men and 7.9cm (3.1in) for women. This makes Stoeberl's tongue sound even more exceptional.

But measuring average tongue length is a tricky business, even for professional otorhinolaryngologists... or ear nose and throat specialists. A 1986 study of tongue length suggested that variations could depend on how far the measurer was able to persuade participants to protrude their tongue. If so, it's as much about how hard you are trying to stick out your tongue as about how long your tongue is.

The longest tongue record is not a new category for Guinness World Records. Briton Umar Alvi held the record from 2001 to 2002, with a tongue of 5.7cm (2.2in) from the lips to the tip. The next two record holders, also British, measured 9cm (3.5in) and 9.8cm (3.9in).

But Stoeberl is the first to exceed 10cm.

Luckily, you don't have to find your oropharynx or epiglottis to compare your tongue with his. You just stick out your tongue, put your lips together, and get out a ruler.

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