I TRIPLE-DOG-DARE YOU!
Our Movie Mythbusters series answers the age-old question, “Okay, but could that actually happen in real life?”
When Flick steps up to the dreaded Triple-Dog Dare administered by his buck-toothed rival, we know his tongue’s going to stick. We’ve seen “A Christmas Story” a dozen times, and the frozen pole bit is one of the movie’s most iconic scenes.
But just how would that Triple-Dog Dare play out in real life? Would he really be left yelping for help with his tongue fused to a cold metal pole?
Short answer? Yes. Yes, it would. So don’t do it.
The phenomenon has to do with the heat-leaching properties of metal. Your tongue is warm thanks to circulation of blood, but when you push it up against the metal surface of the pole — provided that pole is, like, witch’s tit cold — the moisture on your tongue loses heat. Cornell’s Frank Disalvo told LiveScience back in 2012 that the pole’s “thermal conductivity” is the culprit:
“The metal is a much better conductor than your tongue (up to 400 times more powerful). The metal takes heat faster than your body can replenish it.”
Once it robs you of this heat, the moisture freezes, creating what’s basically an ice glue. The “ice glue” affixes to pores and irregularities in both your tongue and the pole.
Should you find yourself in Flick’s predicament (though I can’t imagine why you would, after reading this article), it’s important to remain calm. Because of the “ice glue” effect described above, there are three ways to uncouple yourself from a pole.
- Warm water. Pouring warm water on the bond will melt the “ice glue,” giving you ample time to pull away your tongue sans injury.
- Phone a friend. In the absence of warm water, trying to breathe warm air on the surface — or enlisting a friend to do so — might provide enough heat to unstick your tongue.
- Let it rip. Though more painful than its predecessors, this solution is preferable to indefinite bondage. Simply tear your tongue away. You’ll lose a little skin, but it’ll grow back.
A parting word of advice: I don’t normally recommend blindly trusting people who write internet articles, but I implore you to make this one your exception: Don’t try this at home.