Our new book In the Beginning's hitting stores in a week, and we can't wait to show it to you. Here's one of our favorite origin stories. And if you pre-order it today, we'll send you an autographed book plate (see details below).
The Kiss (and tell)
Preludes to a Kiss
1. The "chew on this for a minute" theory.
Early human ancestors had to make their own baby food out of sparse and tough raw materials "“ and, not having Gerber-esque factories at their disposal, they probably did it with their mouths. Like mother birds, they may have chewed up their own food and spat it into their babies' gaping maws, and then kept touching their lips to the infants' because it was comforting "“ in the same way a pacifier is, well, pacifying, even though it doesn't
>More kissing theories and the origin of the French kiss all after the jump...
2. The "it's totally natural" theory.
Kissing, like the fight-or-flight response, could be instinctive. Many animals rub their noses together to express what looks like affection, in a sort of "butterfly-kiss" way. And bonobos, those wild-and-crazy primate relatives of ours, are known to lock lips for just about any old reason: making up after a fight, bonding with others in their living groups, and apparently just for the hell of it. The idea that kissing is completely a natural human instinct, however, doesn't hold up to close scrutiny: at least 10 percent of cultures worldwide don't engage in any kissing at all.
3. The "nose knows" theory.
Okay, it's not really the nose, per se, but the most widely accepted theory of how kissing started does relate to pheromones. Getting up close and personal for a kiss allows two people to suss out each other's pheromones, chemicals that undoubtedly play a major role in attraction. Women, for instance, tend to prefer men with immune proteins that are slightly different from their own "“ the better to give their future offspring a fighting chance against various pathogens "“ and they can tell who their best mates would be, assuming that's the only criterion, simply by kissing. So as foreplay, smooching makes a lot of sense "“ if you're going to be exchanging genes with someone, better to check
them out first with a big wet one.
The French and Kissing
We admit that the French are responsible for a lot of the wonderful things in this world, but really? The French kiss? As it turns out, the old slip of the tongue isn't from France at all; it's a slur against that nation. First popular in the 1920s, it gained a foot- hold among the English, who thought the French were just the kind of louche people who'd go around
sticking their tongues where they didn't belong. (They had some basis for thinking this: the French were the first Europeans to accept kissing in public as dances in the 6th century often ended with quick makeout sessions.) In the French language, however, there's no such thing as a "French kiss," any more than there's "French toast" or "French fries." The
language of love refers to the French kiss as, of course, something far more romantic: "soul kissing." As for who came up with the actual act, we're betting it was the Indians. The Kama Sutra refers to at least 250 different ways to kiss your lover.
Can't wait the week for In the Beginning? Pre-order your copy at any of these fine stores today: Amazon, B&N, Borders, Books-A-Million. Oh, and if you e-mail us your proof of purchase at firstname.lastname@example.org, we'll send you an autographed sticker to place in the book!