Sunday, December 15, 2019

More to Spit than just Drool

                                                                                         Photo by Matt Rogers
I am honored by the great reviews coming in for my new book, SPIT: What's Cool About Drool.
School Library Journal calls it "Well researched and intriguing, the book delves into the scientists who studied saliva, examines current research about what spit can tell us about our ancestors and how it can help diagnose illnesses, and relays impressive tales of how other animals use their spit to communicate, defend themselves, or spread disease. The combination of full-color photographs, humorous cartoons, short chapters, and a disgustingly fun topic will especially appeal to reluctant readers."

From the Canadian Review of Materials: "This drool-worthy nonfiction book rigorously defends the intriguing thesis that spit “is actually the unsung hero of our time – or at least of our mouths.” Early chapters outline the important jobs spit (“or slobber, drool, saliva or whatever you like to call it”) perform in the human body, from helping to speak to aiding in digestion. The healing and life-saving properties of spit are explained in the “Spit for Your Health” section that delves into saliva screenings used for hepatitis C and HIV detection. Other chapters explore creatures, like snakes, llamas, and the slow loris (the only venomous primate), who wield their spit like a deadly weapon."

Kirkus says: "Along with dipping into the biota and biology of spit, venom, and related substances, the author introduces relevant scientists and others, from Ivan Pavlov to baseball spitballer Elwin Charles “Preacher” Roe, as well as a host of animal spitters, including snakes, mosquitoes (“the only creatures that can suck and spit at the same time”), and venomous shrews. Saliva’s roles in both healing and in spreading disease also come in for look overs, and a final chapter gathers up competitive spitting events involving not just watermelon seeds, but also crickets and kudu poop." 

As a child I was disgusted by an uncle who chewed tobacco and was constantly spitting into a brass spittoon next to his chair. I knew from observing him and watching baseball games that men especially like to spit. The more I looked into the subject, the more fascinated I became with the antibiotic, antifungal and antiviral properties of spit.

Dentists have been pioneers in the study of saliva. Spit tests can tell whether you're more likely to develop cavities. They can also tell if people and other mammals are suffering from stress. Zookeepers and vets use spit tests to check the health of animals, including dogs, elephants and gorillas. Some coaches use spit tests to tell whether certain elite athletes are stressed from over-exercising, which might impair their immune systems. Spit tests can replace some blood tests.

Animals and insects use spit in all sorts of ways, such as keeping blood from clotting to using it as a weapon.

Attitudes toward spit differ from culture to culture. In the United States, men spat wherever and whenever they wished, including offices, churches, even the halls of Congress. After 1896 when New York passed the first spitting ban, spittoons were as common as trashcans in bars, banks, offices and other public places. Not all states banned public spitting. It was women who called for an end to the habit. Some men protested the ban as an assault on their "right to spit." Each Supreme Court justice had his (only men were on the court at that time) personal cuspidor behind the bench, but they are now used as wastebaskets.

People like to spit so much that they spit for sport in a variety of contests with watermelon seeds, pumpkin seeds, olive pits, date pits, cherry pits, and even crickets. The most unappetizing contests involve spitting antelope and sheep poop.

Whatever your attitude toward spit, be happy if you can drool. In private, of course.

SPIT is available from your local bookstore or from

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