“This book tells the story of humanity’s most intimate exchange.”

The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us
by Sheril Kirshenbaum

I bought—and read almost immediately—this book because the moment I saw it, I reached up and mumbled, “This is relevant to my interests. I need this in my life.” Flashback to about two years ago, Sasha scouring the web looking for facts about kissing, for incorporation with a short story that ultimately led nowhere. I still have the .doc – compendium rattling around in my hard drive, methinks. So, of course I would read a book about kissing.

And so when I did finally read it, yeah, I had fun, I really, really did—several pages had me agape or going, “Ooh.” Even though, as Kirshenbaum frequently tells the readers, the science of kissing is at its infancy—and that the book itself is a modest step toward more exploration. I do believe that The Science of Kissing is a necessary book—chatty, glimpsing other fields’ perspectives, never-before-attempted-experiments. There is a lot to think about, a lot of useless information, a lot of giggling, a lot of nodding.

But I read this days ago—and as I write this, I realize that what I got from the book was nothing I didn’t already know, or, at least, nothing I wasn’t already familiar with—and those tech-reliant discoveries on kissing [what pings and clicks does our brain go through when we kiss?] that Kirshenbaum undertook was, well, met with a shrug.

[I first heard about The Science of Kissing in this Valentine’s Day article (of course) from The New Yorker, and, frankly, that pretty much serves as the synopsis of this compact book. That, and when you harness your latent Google-fu powers. So, yeah, there: This really felt like an inspired expansion of a blog entry.] 

I liked this book a lot, yes, if only because it defined its limitations early on: there is next-to-nothing in the sciences about osculation [ew], and met those boundaries with earnestness and charm, and a willingness to be awed.


PS – So, yes, baby steps leading to what I’m hoping would be an in-the-near-future published book that is a compendium / depository / atlas / history / multidisciplinary survey of the kiss. Think of the possibilities—just daydreaming about that book-of-the-future excites me. We look at art history, we look at art movements. We look at literature. We look at politics, psychology, physiology, the neurosciences—and sociology and anthropology. The possibilities are endless.

Someone write that book. The Science of Kissing by Sheril Kirshenbaum will feature largely in that book, but that book will improve upon what Kirshenbaum began—what Kirshenbaum herself admits needs to be developed in earnest. Someone write that book and let it be three inches thick—with tiny font and pictures galore. Oh, lordy.

PPS – Also. Kirshenbaum’s book is the latest creature to tell me that the German language has more than thirty words for kissing. She deigns to include one: nachküssen, meaning a kiss to make up for those that have not occurred. I am on the verge of swooning here, and I would appreciate it if you could help me out. German-speaking fwends, can any of you give me the rest of the 29-or-so words? Or have I been lied to repeatedly? Aherm.

7 thoughts on ““This book tells the story of humanity’s most intimate exchange.”

  1. More than thirty words for kissing in German? I thought for five minutes and could only find six… And German is my first language! I do my best to discribe what they mean!
    1) “Knutschen” is something you might do with a boy at a party… Rather a colloquial expression.
    2) “Abknutschen” or “Abküssen” means kissing someone not only on his/her mouth. Also colloquial.
    3) “Einen Kuss / ein Küsschen geben” means to give a kiss.
    4) Then there are some ways to discribe how you use your tongue while kissing… The three words I know are very explicit.
    I have never heard or used the word “nachküssen”. Maybe it is used in Bavaria or Austria. Those people also say “Schmatzer” or “Busserl” for the word kiss.
    I am also interested which other german words this author found… Even if you include dialects, you cannot find 30!
    Greetings from Germany!


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