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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Re: Um. What?

posted by on October 16 at 9:39 AM

The photos of McCain’s weird lizard tongue Eli posted below are completely creepy, for sure. They’re also a known “tell” called the Tongue Jut. Professional poker players look for this behavior.

Tongue-jutting behavior is a gesture used by people who think they have gotten away with something or are “caught” doing something. I have seen this behavior in flea markets both in the United States and in Russia, among street vendors in Lower Manhattan, at poker tables in Las Vegas, and in business meetings. In each case, the person made the gesture – tongue between the teeth without touching the lips – at the conclusion of some sort of a deal or as a final nonverbal statement.

This behavior has several meanings – depending on specific situations – but is usually associated with one of these: I got caught (taking candy from a drawer), gleeful excitement (look at what I just did, Mom), I got away with something (and I didn’t get caught), I did something foolish, or I am naughty. At the poker table, watch people showing a tongue jut when they get you to commit to the pot and they have the nuts. It shows up all the time. I have also seen players who make big laydowns perform the same action.

UPDATE: Here’s a video put together of McCain’s tongue juts during the first debate.

via Sean Quinn at

RSS icon Comments


I despise McCain, I really do. But McCain's tongue thing, while totally bizarre, was a "whoops" moment - he went to his right to shake Bob Schieffer's hand, and Bob moved the opposite way. Then they reversed. It was a little dance, and the tongue was, I believe, an "oops we look like idiots" face of exasperation. Weird? Yes. Stupid looking? Yes. A tell? I'm not convinced.

Posted by Stefan | October 16, 2008 9:45 AM

The dumbest moment of the debate had to be the question about "By how much would you reduce dependence on foreign oil?"

McCain delivered a succinct specific answer: cut out the midEast and Venezuela.

What does Obama do? Start off his response by saying "cut own the midEast and Venezuela"?

Obama spends his life just copying everything McCain says!

Posted by John Bailo | October 16, 2008 9:53 AM

Bah, he just needs chapstick.

Posted by K | October 16, 2008 9:58 AM


Posted by HURRRRK | October 16, 2008 10:01 AM

what freaks me out re: mccain is all his quick blinking. w/ all his tongue-jutting, is he part reptile?

Posted by glen keenan | October 16, 2008 10:02 AM

Stefan, the tongue jut issue is not what's going on in the picture.
Although, I'm not sure I buy it either.

Posted by Chris in Tampa | October 16, 2008 10:07 AM

ick. i couldn't watch that.

Posted by max solomon | October 16, 2008 10:08 AM

Leave Senator McCain alone! He can't help it--the tongue flick is just the way he smells.

Posted by carrma | October 16, 2008 10:13 AM

Okay, I confess, it's all my fault--I fed McCain peanut butter right before the debate.

Posted by Cookie W. Monster | October 16, 2008 10:36 AM

Michelle Obama tongue-juts a lot, too. I remember noticing that during her last Larry King interview.

I really don't buy most body-language theories -- John and Michelle probably just have dry lips.

Posted by Judith | October 16, 2008 10:37 AM

I just thought it was an indication of the lower-brain (lizard) source of most of McCain's "policies."

Maybe he's a sleestak?

Posted by Andy Niable | October 16, 2008 10:46 AM

the man is talking on and on and on
i think the tongue thing is just a moistening of the lips b/c all the hot air coming in and out

as much as i can't stand the man, i don't think his juts are secret "oooh i get away with everything" movements

he's just parched

Posted by Amy | October 16, 2008 11:17 AM

If you look closely, Amy, most of the tongue jabs never touch his lips. He's not moistening, he's communicating.

Posted by Fnarf | October 16, 2008 11:41 AM

this is a pretty asinine topic for discussion, people lick their lips all the time when their speaking. if mccain were just sitting there constantly flicking his tongue it would be weird, but public speaking takes the moisture out of your mouth. plus he's really old.

Posted by douglas | October 16, 2008 11:49 AM

Obama drank water during the debate. McCain didn't.

Posted by Just an observation... | October 16, 2008 12:03 PM

Is it something to do with his dentures?

Posted by Betsy Ross | October 16, 2008 12:12 PM

Fnarf, if that were true, why did he do the telling tongue jut while he was simply thanking the university for hosting? There were plenty of those examples where he wasn't giving anything away, and a quick lip-lick was more likely. It's also a much, much more common tick than tongue jutting. I've never even heard of tongue jutting before this post.

Posted by EmilyP | October 16, 2008 12:31 PM

I'll turn it back to you, Emily, and ask, if your theory is correct, how you explain the many, many tongue juts McCain executed that did not touch either of his lips? Just straight out and back in. Maybe it's not a tell. But what is it, then? Carrma @8 has the obvious answer.

Posted by Fnarf | October 16, 2008 1:08 PM

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