Sunday, May 13, 2012

Tongue Splitting

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Tongue splitting is a new and upcoming craze among the youth of the United States of America. Between fifteen hundred and two thousand people have done this foolish attempt at body modification in the society today. Its being done mostly underground and mostly on the East and West Coasts by people into extreme body modification, beyond simple piercings. Although many kids like the idea of shoving a knife into the middle of their tongue and splitting it, and there are many ways to have this operation done, there are many who oppose to this and are trying to outlaw this fad.    

Tongue splitting involves surgically splitting the tongue to make it look like a lizards tongue. It is the central bifurcation of the tongue. Pretty much the tongue is cut down the middle, and then it naturally heals that way. Split tongue, tongue forking, forked tongue, and lizard tongue, are just a few names for tongue splitting.

Shannon Larratt the publisher of BME Body Modification Ezine, which happens to be the worlds largest resource on body modification subjects and online, comments, “If anything, we need more procedures like this being done”. She is referring to getting piercings and tongue splittings, because it makes people happy. In “Believers in Search of Insight”, written by D. James Romero, Brian Lee, a customer of West Hollywood piercer, Jennifer “Jeff” Middleton, says, “You want to show off what your about”. Apparently, body piercings and tongue splittings are what these kids are about. More people what these kinds of body modifications, and more people want to make money off it, now rebellion is becoming a uniform instead of the old fashioned torch of individuality.

James Keen, a college student, who has his tongue split insists, When I first saw it, I thought tongue-splitting was the most beautiful thing I've seen in my life. He had his tongue split by a peircer, who is not technically allowed to do this procedure, but the surgeon Keen asked to do it refused to do the operation. The body piercer used a scalpel that was heated by a blowtorch, and he did not use any anesthetics. Its not a fashion statement, said Seth Griffin, a body peircer. Its about feeling good about myself. I feel I am different from other people, and I want to be different. So I set myself apart by changing the way I look.

There are many ways to get a tongue split; obviously Keen did not take the smartest route. There are three choices as to who can split a tongue having a surgeon do it for you, having a non-medical practitioner do it for you, or doing it yourself. There are four primary methods used for tongue splitting. They are tie-off, scalpelled, cautery, and lasered. The method tie-off is where the future split is compressed with increasingly tight loops of thread, slowly cutting through over a period of days or weeks. The method of Scalpelled splits are cut using a scalpel or other blade, and potentially followed up using a cautery tool to control bleeding. In other cases a cautery tool may used to perform the cut itself, essentially branding the tongue in half. Lastly, is the method of Lasered tongue splits, almost exclusively the territory of medical professionals, use a surgical laser to relatively bloodlessly split the tongue in half. There is another method called the fishing line method. This is where a piece of fishing line is strewn through the tongue (Where there is a tongue piercing hole) and pulled the length of the tongue. As it comes out the tongue is split.

Tongue splitting, both on a procedural level, and the first 48 hours of healing can be exceptionally painful. When done by a surgeon pain control medication will be prescribed and anesthesia will be used for the procedure. With a less qualified person the pain will most likely be much worse.

In “East Meets West” written by Kuni Takahashi and Stephanie Schorow, Fusako Mamii, a seventy-eight year old poet, was a witness to the Hiroshima nuclear destruction. She lived through it , but her husband died of radiation poisoning, along with many children and teenagers. Mamii insists, “The souls, the spirits of those children who died never could so what they wanted. Those souls have come back now, doing what they want to do”.

Maybe so, maybe not. Many persons do not care about any reasoning for these things that kids are doing to themselves. Tongue splitting has been branded a mutilation by legislators in Illinois. Almost unanimously, the bill to ban tongue splitting was passed by Illinois legislature and, is waiting the approval of the Senate. If the bill is approved Illinois will be the first US state to ban tongue-splitting. Michigan tried to pass a similar vote last year, but it was turned down. David Miller, Illinois Republican politician, who's also a dentist understands the need for personal freedom, although he is worried about the risk of infection from bacteria in the mouth, and believes a persons speech could be affected by scar tissue and the splitting itself.

Larratt claims, “Not only does the body modification community have a decade of experience with this procedure, but oral surgeons know exactly what both the long and short term health effects are of cuttings of the tongue (none).” Enthusiasts say a ban will simply drive the practice underground, and mean that less well qualified people will be doing the work. They say its no different from tummy tucks, face-lifts and other more acceptable forms of body modification.

The modification-mutilation debate is going on even within the body art circles. Some people are turning away potential customers. Its extreme mutilation, said Kris Lachance, owner of Splash of Color tattoo and body piercing parlor in East Lansing, I can't even imagine why someone would want to do that to their tongue. Its totally gross.

The American Armed Forces has banned the procedure, and some airmen have reportedly had their tongues sewn back together to avoid being kicked out of the service. Having a tongue splitting is legal everywhere except in the US military, who will either discharge those with tongue splits or force them to undergo surgery to reverse the split, and in Illinois, where it is considered a doctors-only procedure. Tongue splitting is generally legal for oral surgeons to perform, although the vast majority of surgeons will refuse to do it either for personal reasons or for fear of professional backlash. In addition, several US states have pending legislation so you may want to check before proceeding publicly.

Tongue splitting seems to be a growing body modification fad. Good or Bad? Perhaps nobody has the right to make the judgment. There are many ways to get this operation done- just get it done right. Although, many people do like this fashion and many do not. Illinois was not the first to try to ban tongue splitting, and will probably not be the last. This is a continuous circle of round abouts. Tongue splitting will not be the last body modification; there will always be something else. Until then- Happy Splitting!


Goshgarian, Gary. The contemporary reader, 7TH Edition. Longman, 2000.

Takahashi, Kuni., & Schorow, Stephanie (000). East Meets West. In Joseph Terry (Ed.), The Contemporary Reader (7th ed., pp.67). Longman Gary Goshgarian.

Romero, James D. (17). Believers in Search of Piercing Insight. In Joseph Terry (Ed.), The Contemporary Reader (7th ed., pp. 61). Longman Gary Goshgarian.

Larratt, Shannony. Tongue Splitting FAQS. [On-Line]. Available http//

Stacey Range. Mutilation or modification? Forked tongues raise issue. Lansing State Journal.

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