Shaking Your Head Originally Meant You Were Full
Next to throwing up the horns whenever somebody mentions Slayer, the most universally recognized human gesture is the head shake, which signifies a negative response. But what a strange way to communicate that. What logical relation could there possibly be between turning your head from side to side and denying a proffered Double Down?
Michael Saechang/Wiki Commons
Is it to make sure even your vomit needn't touch the abomination?
That is in fact a pertinent example, because the prevailing theory on the origin of the head shake is food-related. Since babies don't have the whole "language" thing down yet, they simply turn their heads away from food when they're full. This simple denial of food mentally links the gesture to the concept of negation, and it's this relationship which survives into our adult lives, where it can serve many purposes, ranging from "not hungry" to "not right now" to "that is not my German porn, and I will not dignify your accusations with a verbal response."
Scowling Is Flexing (With Your Face)
Hey, we heard your mom's college nickname was Clappy McCondomTrap. You're a biological curiosity -- the first human conceived not by your father's sperm, but by his tears of regret. Your mom's vagina is like a Slip 'n' Slide, if a Slip 'n' Slide were bigger, floppier, and more prone to misuse.
Are you angry yet? Good!
Your face has gone all tight -- the exact opposite of your mom's vagina.
Look at your face: You're scowling. Why are you doing that, aside from all of our needlessly personal insults about your mother? Researchers from the University of California at Santa Barbara and Griffith University in Australia set out to answer that. While science has long considered the "anger face" to be an ingrained facet of our basic biology, its origins are more enigmatic. So professors Aaron Sell, Leda Cosmides, and John Tooby set out to explain why the contraction of seven distinct muscle groups -- "lowered brow ... raised cheekbones (as in a snarl), lips thinned and pushed out, the mouth raised (as in defiance), the nose flared and the chin pushed out and up" -- is the universal human expression of anger. To do so, they isolated each component of the "anger face" and showed the resulting computer-generated faces to test subjects. And even when shown in isolation -- only the lowered brow or just the thinned lips, for instance -- subjects reported that the expressions made the depicted individual look physically stronger.
They don't even need to see your teeth to know you will bite them.
So there you have it: Each individual feature of your grumpy face has evolved specifically to make you look more badass. Well, not you. You look like a constipated baby. But other people look super tough.
We Call Our Parents "Mama" And "Dada" Because They're The Easiest "Words" To Say
Unless you've royally screwed up and your baby's first words are "I pwead the fifth," they were probably either "mama," or "dada." And oddly enough, those words sound very similar in every single language, all across the globe. American and European children usually go with "mama" and "papa," Chinese babies prefer "mama" and "baba," while Turkish kids go with "ana" and "baba." You're probably wondering how this is even possible. The answer, of course, is ancient aliens.
Our true Mama and Dada.
Actually, linguistics pioneer Roman Jakobson solved this peculiar phenomenon decades ago. He theorized that babies aren't simply hopelessly unoriginal, but rather desperately trying to get a grip on this whole "articulation" thing. This process mainly involves a buttload of gibberish, but Jakobson discovered that there's a technical side to it as well. Speech sounds are acquired in a specific order, based on their complexity.
This means that, while enunciations which require all sorts of fancy vocal acrobatics, like r and w, are learned relatively late, mmm is the result of an infant seeing what happens when they fire off their vocal cords while keeping their trap shut. Doing the same thing with their mouth wide open results in ah. Getting from m to p requires only the addition of a small puff of air.
If your baby's first word is "fuck," they're a damn prodigy.
So because babies are lazy little idiots, the first sounds they begin repeating are "mama" and "papa," and emotional parents adopt those as their loving nicknames. Also because they're lazy little idiots. We're all lazy little idiots, when you get right down to it.
When he's not busy keeping from going extinct, Guidodo is on Facebook. Bayfman writes about science at night and teaches it in the day. You can email him here.
For more questions brainiacs have found the answers to, check out 8 Simple Questions You Won't Believe Science Can't Answer and 5 Stupid Questions You Won't Believe Scientists Answered.
Subscribe to our YouTube channel, and check out 4 Obnoxious Old People Behaviors (Explained By Science), and other videos you won't see on the site!
Also, follow us on Facebook, and let's be best friends forever.