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How to Remove Your Frozen Tongue from a Pole

Illustration by Mark Wilson

It’s been a long, frigid winter so far. It’s enough to make people do some crazy things, like testing the laws of thermodynamics—with their tongues. As a public service, we have dug up this advice from our February 2009 issue. (You can read the rest of the “11 Winter Skills Every Adirondacker Needs to Know” here.)

Leave No Tongue Behind 
How to dislodge your tongue from frozen metal

Yes, it really does happen. Metal is such a strong thermal conductor that it robs heat from your tongue faster than your body can replace the warmth. Ice forms, and without the heat to melt it, your tongue freezes to the flagpole or jungle gym.

If you still have any doubts about the phenomenon, a YouTube search will provide ample proof (and may raise questions about the quality of our educational system). But a tri­ple-dog dare must be met, so if you ever get stuck in this predicament, here’s how to proceed:

  • First, don’t panic. Simply tearing your tongue off the metal will do just that: tear your tongue.
  • A quick fix is pouring warm liquid over the connection, melting the ice and breaking the seal.
  • If you don’t normally carry a cup of warm water in your backpack, you still have some options. As you may have heard in the school yard, you can have a friend (with good aim and trajectory) urinate on your tongue. It will work, but it may mean the end of your friendship.
  • Instead cup your hands around your tongue, allowing the heat of your breath to do the work.