Talking while Eating

I’ve never been able to manage talking and eating at the same time… I don’t mean talking with your mouth full, but just the basics of holding a conversation over a nice meal. I often find myself unexpectedly choking on my food, to the point where both I and my friends who know me well enough start laughing, rather than the possibly more appropriate concerned response. I’ve often wondered if I have some strange problem, like the little valve at the back doesn’t close right, or something.

Today I was reading an interesting article about the evolution of speech from chimps (who are vocal to some extent) to humans. It turns out there are three parts to this – physical changes to the mouth, expansion of the brain to hold more vocabulary, and development of the ability to put the words you know together in an infinite variety of ways. Concerning the first of these, the article states, “Changes to the position and shape of our tongue have enhanced our vocal communication by enabling us to generate more distinct vocal sounds that reduce ambiguity… Because these changes also increase the risk of choking on our food, the communicative advantages must outweigh the potential costs.” Aha! So I’m just a product of evolution in action :) Science 314:926.

Another interesting tidbit from the article, “One obvious benefit [of faster human speech] is that rapid communication reduces the demands on working memory – preventing us from forgetting the beginning of a sentence before hearing its end.” I don’t think I even need to comment on that one :D


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