Pandiculation: The Name For When You Yawn and Stretch

Pandiculation is when you yawn and stretch simultaneously
Go for it!

Okay, so a bit about yawning today. We all yawn – sometimes at inopportune moments (such as during meetings, in a job interview, or when you’re trying to chat up Dave from accounts), sometimes at opportune moments (i.e. in bed trying to get to sleep). The scientists of the world, being dumb, don’t understand why we yawn, though. What gives?

There are theories, of course. Some suggest it’s a way to cool our brains down (obsolete, if you ask us – we wrap ice packs around our skulls to accomplish that), whilst others suggest when we’re bored or tired we don’t breathe as much as when invigorated or energised. Okay then, so what about when we do that yawning thing combined with a stretch?! This is known as pandiculation. Let’s find out more!

Pandiculation

Pandiculation - Joseph Ducreux's self portrait

Make a mental note – next time you get up from a night of sleep, you’ll probably stretch and yawn simultaneously. That is pandiculation. Now you know, go and illuminate everyone you know with this information! They will be much better off with this in the know.

The matter clearly interested Joseph Ducreux, who was a portrait painter in his era and did some scribbles of Marie Antoinette. You can see a self-portrait of himself in action above. Hot stuff. It’s interesting the science hasn’t moved on with this one, though. Ducreux didn’t know why he yawned. We still don’t know why we yawn. Thusly, we’ve come up with some theories.

Why We Yawn

First up, what is a yawn? Well, it’s a reflex, or something, where one inhales air rapidly (kind of like a vacuum cleaner) which also involves the eardrums, alarmingly, stretching – we guess eardrums pandiculate, too. The yawn is, typically, wrapped up with an exhalation. But why?

  • We are copying vacuum cleaners – Hoovers, if you may, are great and keep your house clean. Humans are jealous things, though, and we’re jealous of that ability to clean stuff. The only way we could do it is if we crawled about on the floor licking at it – this would not be wise, so, subconsciously, we are apeing vacuum cleaners in a fit of jealousy.
  • We believe we are vacuum cleaners – Chillingly, it’s possible we believe we are vacuum cleaners. It’s unclear what defines reality in our cosmos – are we merely the creation of giant vacuum cleaner overlords, our divine creators, who only make subtle nods towards why humanity exists on this planet in space. Thankfully, we’re smart enough to, potentially, have worked it out! A place in Hooven (like heaven, but with more hoovers) awaits us.
  • We are suffocating – Is a yawn your body’s emergency reaction against asphyxiation? It’s possible. This would explain the stretching – the panicked flailing of misconceived death throes. It’s a dark theory, but not as dark as 80% dark chocolate.
  • A jealousy of trees – When pandiculating, humans resemble a tree – limbs stretching out to reflect branches and whatnot (one’s hair, if you have any, would be the leaves). Is it possible we yawn out of jealousy of trees?
  • To make trees jealous – Or do we yawn to make trees jealous of us? Trees just sort of stand there all erect for generations not budging. It must be pretty boring. Thusly, and rather childishly, humans pandiculate to mock their inability to move. Pretty reprehensible behaviour, really. Next time you yawn, punch yourself in the face as punishment.
  • To surreptitiously indicate it is time for a raise – Pandiculating at work surely hints to peers and superiors you have been working your butt off. “Gee,” they would think, “Mr. Wapojif deserves an incremental additional fiscal requirement to his per annum means of financial recourse.” Result? A 0.10% raise. Huzzah! Thanks, yawning!

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