Once upon a time no one understood what I was saying.

This is not a metaphor.

When I was a baby, back when dinosaurs roamed the land, the fashion was for women not to breast-feed their babies. Formula was so scientific! So modern! Regrettably, formula came in bottles, and bottles had nipples. Not the nice kind with the small human-shaped nipple, but the big elephant-nipple kind made out of rubber as thick as old boots.

If you were a small child, trying to get nourishment from a very big baby bottle, sometimes a Very Bad Thing would happen. Instead of swallowing with your tongue behind your top teeth...

try it now. See?...

...you would swallow with your tongue behind your bottom teeth. And if you were regularly fed with a baby bottle, you would get used to swallowing that way.

In the speech improvement trade, that’s called “reverse swallow.”

No big deal, right?


Your top teeth are embedded in bone that’s part of your skull. They’re very strong. There’s a ridge right behind them, and the tongue, which is a big piece of muscle and quite strong, can press against them and not do much harm.

Your lower teeth are part of your lower jaw, which is much less strong.

So your lower teeth and lower jaw are deformed because of the action of your tongue. I once met an 18-year-old, at Harvard, with reverse swallow, who had lost almost all of his teeth.

The muscles of your tongue develop differently, too.

You don’t have the right musculature to say some sounds correctly. Since everyone sounds fine to themselves, you don’t hear that you aren’t making them correctly.

And when I say “you,” that would be me.

So, see above: Once upon a time no one understood what I was saying. The reverse-swallow phenomenon had developed fairly recently, so no one knew what might be the cause.

They decided I was mentally defective.

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