Kiss

The Kiss by Francesco Hayez, 19th century.

A kiss (from Old English cyssan "to kiss", in turn from coss "a kiss", perhaps onomatopoeic) is the touching of the lips to some other thing, usually another person. Science of kissing is called Philematology.

Kissing is a learned behaviour, related to the grooming behaviour seen between other animals. Many non-human primates also exhibit kissing behaviour.

Kissing as affection

In modern Western culture, kissing is most commonly an expression of affection.

Between people of close acquaintance, a kiss, often reciprocal, is offered as a greeting or a good-bye. This kind of kiss is typically made by brief contact of puckered lips to the skin of the cheek or no contact at all, and merely performed in the air near the cheek with the cheeks touching. Such kissing is a common greeting in European and Latin American countries between a man and a woman or between two women. Relatives may kiss children to comfort them or show affection, and vice versa.

As an expression of romantic affection or sexual desire, kissing involves two people kissing one another on the lips, usually with much more intensity, and for a considerably longer period of time. In more passionate kissing couples may open their mouths, suck on each others' lips, or move their tongues into each others' mouths (see French kissing). Sexualized kissing may also involve one person kissing another on various parts of the body.

In romantic and sexual kissing, the physical sensations are often of primary importance.

Kissing as symbolism

A symbolic kiss

When not an expression of affection, a kiss is a largely symbolic gesture in that the purpose of the kiss is to convey a meaning, such as salutations or subordination, rather than to experience the physical sensations associated with kissing. Kisses on the cheek as salutations are traditional in many parts of continental Europe, and the number of kisses, alternating cheeks, depends on which region one comes from.

Kissing may also be used to signify reverence and subordination, as in kissing the ring of a king or pope. A kiss can also be rude or done for the sake of irritating or proving one's superiority. A rude kiss or a kiss with a smack is referred to, in the USA, as a buss.

A more ominous use of the kiss is as a symbol of condemnation as may be observed when a crime lord kisses an underling, in effect imposing a sentence of death upon that person, the ultimate "goodbye kiss" or the "kiss of death."

The term Kissing Hands is used to formally describe the appointment of the senior state figures to office by British monarchs. Though in the past, the monarch's hand was actually kissed, this is no longer so. When figures such as the British Prime Minister, cabinet members and diplomatics are formally appointed, they are said to have Kissed Hands. (Kissing the hand is still practised as a romantic flourish, especially in Latin countries.)

Man kissing boy
Miyagawa Isshô, ca. 1750; One of ten panels on shudo themes from a shunga-style painted hand scroll. Private collection.

Other uses

The term is also used for expressions of affection that do not involve the lips. The "Eskimo Kiss" is executed by the two individuals gently rubbing the tips of their noses together — in the Maori culture of New Zealand this is called a hongi. A "butterfly kiss" consists of two people putting their eyes close to each other and fluttering their eyelashes upon one another's.

A kiss can be "blown" using actions of the hand and the mouth. This is used to convey affection usually while parting, when the partners are physically distant but can view each other. Blown kisses are also used when a popular person wishes to convey affection to a large crowd or audience.

The kiss does not exist in all cultures, as certain societies find it repugnant.

Young couple kiss in Minnesota, 1900

Asymmetry in kissing

In order to avoid clashing noses, a couple will often turn their faces to one side or another when kissing, so that their heads are at an angle from one another. Often, to make this more comfortable, one person, sitting upright, will support another, perhaps across their lap and in their arms, thus combining hugging and kissing. The person supporting the other is most likely taking the more active role in kissing the other. Writing in Nature, psychologist Oner Güntürkün observed couples kissing in public places such as airports and parks, and showed that the direction of turning is more frequently to the right than the left by a 2:1 ratio. Güntürkün ascribed this asymmetry to a neonatal right side preference.

(data from Nature 421, 711 (13 February 2003); doi:10.1038/421711a)

The anatomy of kissing

Kissing is a complex behaviour that requires significant coordination. The most important muscle involved is the orbicularis oris muscle; it is used to pucker the lips and informally known as the kissing muscle. The tongue can also be an important part of the kiss.

The Kiss by Gustav Klimt.

Kisses in history, art and literature

  • In the gospels, Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss — a subversive use of the kiss, as it is a symbol of affection.
  • The last words of British naval commander Horatio, Lord Nelson, are said to have been 'Kiss me Hardy!' to one of his subordinates.
  • In the fairytale Sleeping Beauty and the Greek myth of Pygmalion and Galatea, a romantic kiss is used by a male to awaken or breathe life into a female, which feminist critics have interpreted as symbolising the suspect idea that women don't have much of a life unless their sexuality is awakened through the attention of men. The Matrix turns the tables on this motif when Trinity kisses the sleeping main character Neo, bringing him back to life at the end of the movie.
  • In the Frog Prince fairytale, it is the male who is transformed from frog to man by a romantic kiss.
  • Gustav Klimt painted a work entitled The Kiss.
  • The Turkish 1997 hit song Simarik has a chorus that ends with two kiss sounds. The Australian cover version is even titled Kiss Kiss.
  • Auguste Rodin created the sculpture The Kiss (Le Baiser).
  • In Lady and the Tramp, while Lady and Tramp were both eating the end of a noodle at the same time, their lips end up touching.

Trivia

  • The longest recorded kiss took place in Tel Aviv, Israel, on April 5, 1999, between Karmit Tsubera and Dror Orpaz. It lasted 30 hours and 45 minutes.

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The tongue can also be an important part of the kiss. In 2005, Melendi released his second album, Que el cielo espere sentao ("Let heaven sit and wait"), which has already sold more than 300,000 copies. The most important muscle involved is the orbicularis oris muscle; it is used to pucker the lips and informally known as the kissing muscle. His song "Con la luna llena" ("With the full moon") has been a huge hit across Spain. Kissing is a complex behaviour that requires significant coordination. By May 2004, following an acclaimed concert performance in Madrid, Melendi reached the 50,000 discs sold plateau. (data from Nature 421, 711 (13 February 2003); doi:10.1038/421711a). In May of that year, he embarked on a small tour of Spain, and in September his fan club formed, at this point in modest numbers.

Güntürkün ascribed this asymmetry to a neonatal right side preference. In February 2003, the album Sin Noticias de Holanda ("No News from Holland") was released, with twelve tracks highly regarded for their intelligent lyrics. Writing in Nature, psychologist Oner Güntürkün observed couples kissing in public places such as airports and parks, and showed that the direction of turning is more frequently to the right than the left by a 2:1 ratio. In 2002, he submitted his disk to Javier Valiño of Carlito records, who called him days later. The person supporting the other is most likely taking the more active role in kissing the other. In 2001, he joined a group called "El bosque de Sherwood" (Sherwood Forest), and soon after recorded a solo disc containing three tracks. Often, to make this more comfortable, one person, sitting upright, will support another, perhaps across their lap and in their arms, thus combining hugging and kissing. He turned to soccer, playing for lower categories of Real Oviedo.

In order to avoid clashing noses, a couple will often turn their faces to one side or another when kissing, so that their heads are at an angle from one another. After a relatively normal childhood, it became to clear to his parents that the adolescent Melendi was not born to study. The kiss does not exist in all cultures, as certain societies find it repugnant. He was born in 1979 in Oviedo. Blown kisses are also used when a popular person wishes to convey affection to a large crowd or audience. Melendi (Ramón Melendi Espina) is a flamenco-influenced Spanish pop musician. This is used to convey affection usually while parting, when the partners are physically distant but can view each other.

A kiss can be "blown" using actions of the hand and the mouth. A "butterfly kiss" consists of two people putting their eyes close to each other and fluttering their eyelashes upon one another's. The "Eskimo Kiss" is executed by the two individuals gently rubbing the tips of their noses together — in the Maori culture of New Zealand this is called a hongi. The term is also used for expressions of affection that do not involve the lips.

(Kissing the hand is still practised as a romantic flourish, especially in Latin countries.). When figures such as the British Prime Minister, cabinet members and diplomatics are formally appointed, they are said to have Kissed Hands. Though in the past, the monarch's hand was actually kissed, this is no longer so. The term Kissing Hands is used to formally describe the appointment of the senior state figures to office by British monarchs.

A more ominous use of the kiss is as a symbol of condemnation as may be observed when a crime lord kisses an underling, in effect imposing a sentence of death upon that person, the ultimate "goodbye kiss" or the "kiss of death.". A rude kiss or a kiss with a smack is referred to, in the USA, as a buss. A kiss can also be rude or done for the sake of irritating or proving one's superiority. Kissing may also be used to signify reverence and subordination, as in kissing the ring of a king or pope.

Kisses on the cheek as salutations are traditional in many parts of continental Europe, and the number of kisses, alternating cheeks, depends on which region one comes from. When not an expression of affection, a kiss is a largely symbolic gesture in that the purpose of the kiss is to convey a meaning, such as salutations or subordination, rather than to experience the physical sensations associated with kissing. In romantic and sexual kissing, the physical sensations are often of primary importance. Sexualized kissing may also involve one person kissing another on various parts of the body.

In more passionate kissing couples may open their mouths, suck on each others' lips, or move their tongues into each others' mouths (see French kissing). As an expression of romantic affection or sexual desire, kissing involves two people kissing one another on the lips, usually with much more intensity, and for a considerably longer period of time. Relatives may kiss children to comfort them or show affection, and vice versa. Such kissing is a common greeting in European and Latin American countries between a man and a woman or between two women.

This kind of kiss is typically made by brief contact of puckered lips to the skin of the cheek or no contact at all, and merely performed in the air near the cheek with the cheeks touching. Between people of close acquaintance, a kiss, often reciprocal, is offered as a greeting or a good-bye. In modern Western culture, kissing is most commonly an expression of affection. .

Many non-human primates also exhibit kissing behaviour. Kissing is a learned behaviour, related to the grooming behaviour seen between other animals. Science of kissing is called Philematology. A kiss (from Old English cyssan "to kiss", in turn from coss "a kiss", perhaps onomatopoeic) is the touching of the lips to some other thing, usually another person.

It lasted 30 hours and 45 minutes. The longest recorded kiss took place in Tel Aviv, Israel, on April 5, 1999, between Karmit Tsubera and Dror Orpaz. In Lady and the Tramp, while Lady and Tramp were both eating the end of a noodle at the same time, their lips end up touching. Auguste Rodin created the sculpture The Kiss (Le Baiser).

The Australian cover version is even titled Kiss Kiss. The Turkish 1997 hit song Simarik has a chorus that ends with two kiss sounds. Gustav Klimt painted a work entitled The Kiss. In the Frog Prince fairytale, it is the male who is transformed from frog to man by a romantic kiss.

The Matrix turns the tables on this motif when Trinity kisses the sleeping main character Neo, bringing him back to life at the end of the movie. In the fairytale Sleeping Beauty and the Greek myth of Pygmalion and Galatea, a romantic kiss is used by a male to awaken or breathe life into a female, which feminist critics have interpreted as symbolising the suspect idea that women don't have much of a life unless their sexuality is awakened through the attention of men. The last words of British naval commander Horatio, Lord Nelson, are said to have been 'Kiss me Hardy!' to one of his subordinates. In the gospels, Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss — a subversive use of the kiss, as it is a symbol of affection.

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