If you’re like me, then it’s only when you’re watching Ren and Stimpy reruns and one of them screams with their mouth wide open, that you notice the dangly thing in the back of their throat and think, “oh yeah, I have one of those!”
The uvula. That mysterious punching bag hanging in the back of your throat. What is it? What the heck does it do? Why is it there?
Don’t hurt yourself with all those questions now. Let’s ease into the enigma that is the uvula slowly. Like a warm bath after a hard day’s work.
First, it helps with the production of some sounds, particularly what are known as uvular consonants, which are widely used in the French and Arabic languages.
Second, it keeps the throat moist (eww I hate that word). The uvula extracts a lot of a thin type of saliva that keep the back of the throat coated.
Those who have had their uvula removed (there are medical reasons for this) tend to have trouble with dry throats.
Third, it seals off the passageways between your throat and nose, preventing solids and liquids from going the wrong way.
Forth, the uvula is one of five parts of the body that initiate the gag reflex. So when you’re brushing your tongue and you reach a little too far back and want to hurl… uvula.
Lastly, it is believed that it helps with the vocal tonality of a person’s voice. Though it is merely speculative, it’s thought that the uvula helps prevent the nasally quality that would typically resonate in someone missing their uvula. In essence, it adds a richness to the voice.
Interestingly enough, humans are one of very few animals that have a uvula; and by animals I don’t mean species. There is no species on the planet where this peculiar mouth sack is prevalent, it is only in specific animals- such as baboons, and of course, humans.
Oh uvula, you so strange.