Have you ever seen A Christmas Story? If so, you probably remember the famous scene where Ralphie and his friends triple-dog dare their buddy, Flick, to stick his tongue to a flagpole.

Since it was winter and very cold out, the flagpole was frozen and Flick’s tongue got stuck! The poor kid had to wait for the fire department to come and rescue him.

You may have WONDERed if this could really happen in real life. In fact, it can and does happen all the time. Apparently there is no shortage of kids willing to triple-dog dare their friends to try what they see in the movies. Take it from us, though, this is something that CAN happen and WILL happen, so don’t try it yourselves, Wonder Friends!

WHY it happens is just a matter of science. Since it sits inside your warm mouth all the time, your tongue is naturally coated with moisture. That moisture will quickly freeze if the temperature drops below 32º F.

So why doesn’t your tongue freeze when you eat something cold, like ice cream? Your body keeps the tongue from freezing by pumping warm blood to your tongue. When you eat ice cream, for example, your body continually warms the tongue from the inside out.

Why doesn’t this work if you lick a flagpole then? The reason your tongue sticks to a flagpole is the thermal conductivity of metal. Metals conduct heat extremely well. In fact, metal conducts heat about 400 times better than your tongue.

When your tongue freezes to a metal flagpole, the metal robs your tongue of heat much faster than it can be replaced by your body. When you add in the fact that your tongue has all sorts of grooves and crevices where moisture hides, it’s easy to see why it can freeze so quickly and get stuck so solidly to a metal flagpole — or any other type of very cold metal.

If you ever get your tongue — or any exposed skin — frozen solid to a flagpole or any other type of metal, just relax and don’t panic. Don’t try to pull it off right away, as you’ll leave a nice coating of skin on the metal…and that won’t feel very good at all!

Instead, just get help from someone as quickly as possible. Pouring warm water on and around your skin and the metal should heat things up, so that you can thaw your skin enough to separate it from the metal without permanent injury.

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    • Yikes, we’re glad to hear it, WonderGirl11! We wouldn’t want you to get stuck! Thanks for WONDERing about things that make you say “brrrr!” today! :)

    • We don’t think it would be a fun experience, Wonder Friends in Mrs. K’s class! The heat from your tongue wouldn’t be enough to get away from that very cold, metal pole! You might end up with a very sore tongue if you tried to pull away! :)

  1. I think today’s wonder was cool I have never seen a Christmas Story. I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about ants or trampolines.

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend Garrett! We are glad you enjoyed today’s Wonder; maybe you and your family can watch the movie, A Christmas Story, during the holidays. It will certainly make you laugh!

      Thanks for sharing your guess for tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day®– it’s going to be a miniature Wonder! :)

  2. It was really cool that when you eat ice cream it doesn’t make your tongue frozen but when your tongue is out of your body it freezes.

    • We’re so glad you learned about the science behind freezing today, Wonder Friend Paige M! It’s fun to Wonder with great Friends, just like you! :)

  3. Today’s wonder made me think of the time I watched a very young girl get her tongue stuck to a flagpole.

    I think tomorrow’s wonder will be pillow pet.

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend Kat! We sure hope that little girl was okay… we bet you learned a lesson after seeing that! We can’t wait to Wonder with you tomorrow! See you soon! :)

  4. We thought today’s wonder was a little bit sticky. Mrs. Ski really hopes there are no practical jokes on her about this one tomorrow. Gross. Keep your tongues in your mouths! :P

    We think that tomorrow’s wonder will be about finger puppets, pillow pets, contact lenses, mice, smallest cameras, ipods, zhu zhu pets, strings off of your shoes, aglets, or miniature things.

    • We hope none of our Wonder Friends get stuck this season… that would hurt!

      It’s so much fun to Wonder with Mrs. Ski’s AM Class, especially when you share your guesses for tomorrow’s miniature Wonder! We can’t wait! :)

    • Thanks for sharing your chilly comment with us, Wonder Friends in Mrs. Hensel’s 1st grade! We don’t think that having a tongue frozen to a pole would be very fun, so we will keep our tongues inside! Especially when it’s chilly outside! :)

    • Oooh another SUPER guess from our fifth grade Wonder Friends in Mrs. Walker’s class! We sure hope you stop by Wonderopolis tomorrow to find out if you’re right! :)

    • We Wonder if our Friend Jusin agrees, Grace W! If it’s cold enough outside, it’s possible! You can find out how in today’s Wonder! :)

  5. Hi wonderopolis! My friend actually dared me to stick my tongue on a flagpole. I abhorred it. I learned that metal is a good conductor and your tongue is not. Would your tongues stick to a insulator like plastic?
    Thanks
    Avneesh

  6. Hi Wonderopolis!
    Some cool things you said that I really liked are, medal conducts heat about 400 times better than your tongue. Also I like the fact that you gave the advice to not panic if you get your tongue stuck on a flag pole!
    Some questions I have are, have a hodgepodge of kids stuck their tongue on a flagpole at once? Also, What is the longest amount of time possible your tongue could be stuck on a flagpole?
    Thank you for some wonderful information!
    Sidney

    • Oh boy, we’re so happy our Wonder Friends Avneesh and Sidney are here! We sure hope you’re okay after that dare, Avneesh! We’re so glad you’re both WONDERing about conductors of heat with us today! We bet there are lots of people who have tried sticking their tongues on a flagpole over the years, Sidney. We wouldn’t recommend it! :)

  7. That’s kind of scary… But anyways can you guys make an article called is Santa real? :) Thanks! Peace out home dogs – Haley and Gabbie

    • Oh boy, we sure are glad you’re okay, Layla! We hope you’ve been telling the truth, too! We LOVE it when our Wonder Friends are honest!

      Thanks for WONDERing with us today! See you soon! :)

    • We don’t recommend it, Davey! When it gets cold outside, the pole will be extra cold and your tongue could get stuck. Check out today’s Wonder for more information about how it works! :)

    • We hope your tongue stays away from frozen poles, Antonio! We can’t wait to find out what tomorrow’s Wonder will be! :)

  8. It does happen! I have done it so many times! It’s so much fun. I love doing it. I think tomorrow’s WONDER will be about elves since it’s close to Christmas. 12 days! :) I also think you should make a wonder about Bands. Like Big Time Rush <3, One Direction <3, The Beatles <3, I would LOVE that WONDER.
    ~WONDERfriend Gina. :)

    • We sure hope you’re not putting your tongue through pain, Gina M! We are glad you’re WONDERing with us today… it’s so exciting to guess tomorrow’s Wonder will be, too!

      We are very excited for the holidays so we can celebrate with our families and friends! Also, thanks for suggesting a musical Wonder, Gina M! We bet all those bands are WONDERful! :)

  9. Hey
    Wonderopolis sorry I haven’t commented in a while I have been so busy! But I have been reading them. Today’s wonder reminds me when I get my tounge stuck on a popsicle it hapens almost everytime I eat one, what bad luck I have right? I loved today’s wonder!

    I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about a marble.

    • Don’t worry, Wondergirl101! We are glad you’re back now! We are glad that you learned about the science behind why our tongues stick to cold things so easily! Thanks for stopping by today! :)

    • Oh no, Mackenzie! We hope your tongue is okay, and we’re glad that you shared your comment with us! Have a WONDERful day, Mackenzie! :)

  10. Dear wonderopolis,
    I have not tried to stick my tongue to a pole but I could imagine that it would hurt! In science class we are learning about metal conductors. Does it take a long time to get it unstuck? I think it is very cool that your blood pumping keeps you warm. If something was 33 degrees could your tongue get stuck to it?

    Stephanie Smith

    • How cool that you’re learning about metal conductors, Stephanie! It’s a great connection to today’s Wonder! A tongue can be removed from a frozen pole once the temperature of the tongue is higher than that of the pole. By pouring warm water on the pole and the tongue, the extremely low temperature of the pole will increase, which means you can have your tongue back! :)

    • What a SUPER guess, Mrs. Moukhliss! We certainly hope you and your Wonder students will join us tomorrow to find out if you’re correct! :)

  11. We thought today’s wonder was freeze-tastic (Gabby). It’s stuck in our brains for the day. We really hope Tanner doesn’t try this tonight. :P

    We think tomorrow’s wonder will be about legos, ants, baby praying mantises (ours just hatched), rolie polies, sponges that expand in water to make cool toys out of teeny tiny capsules, marbles, or worms. Really? Worms. Ugh.

    • We hope no one in Mrs. Ski’s PM Class (or AM class, either) gets stuck to a frozen pole! YOWZA, that would hurt! We LOVE all your awesome ideas for tomorrow’s mini Wonder… we think you’re on to something… but it’s not worms! :-)

    • We hope you keep your tongue away from a frozen pole, Jack! We’re glad you found today’s Wonder interesting– it was cool to learn something new with you! :)

  12. Hi Wonderopolis today’s wonder was a good reminder for kids to not put their tongue on a frozen flagpole. But Mrs.Thiessen thinks that tomorrow’s wonder will be about a remote control car.

    From Devin

    • We agree, Devin! We think that our tongues would be sore after running into a frozen flagpole! We hope to see you tomorrow for more WONDERing! :)

  13. Hello Wonderopolis, I’m in Mrs. Caplin’s 5th grade class. I didn’t know that thermal was a word. Now I know that thermal is a synonym for warm and hot. How hot would the water be, to be able to get your tongue unstuck? When I find out this answer I would like to tell this to my Grandpa. I have watched the movie A Christmas story before. I predict tomorrow’s Wonder will be about elves. I predict this because elves are usually tiny, it’s fun trying to find them the next morning, and when they cause trouble it’s is kind of funny.

    • We’re glad you learned a new word today, Simba! We wouldn’t want to burn your tongue, so warm water (not as hot as a cup of tea!) should do the trick! We are glad that you and your Grandpa are WONDERing together! How cool! We can’t wait to hang out again while we Wonder tomorrow! See you then! :)

  14. Hi you guys. I just wanted to say how awesome you are. I have one question though. Why does it not happen when you put a frozen metal spoon in your mouth?

    • Hi Wonder Friend! We’re glad you’ve been enjoying your time at Wonderopolis! We learned that the temperature in your mouth is high, and when you put a spoon in your mouth, the heat of your mouth and tongue transfer over to the frozen spoon! :)

  15. Hello Wonderopolis. My name is John. It’s nice to comment again. I never knew that the tongue’s moisture had something to do with the kind of temperature. I learned a few new words from wonder like thermal and conductivity. This knowledge will help my writing and thinking. I have a quick question for you. How is the mouth warmer than cold weather? I think tomorrow’s wonder is about Gogo’s crazy bones.

  16. Hi Sam that’s too bad that a frozen spoon got stuck on your tongue. I hope it feels better.

    Ps. I’m glad you told me because I was just about to try it for myself!

  17. I never knew that metal conducts heat about 400 times better than your tongue.

    Why would exsposed skin freeze to a flagpole also?
    I already had background knowledge that if you pull your tongue of the pole when it’s frozen you will leave a coating of skin.

    I think tomorrow’s wonder is about bouncy balls because some are small but they are fun.

    • Hey Wonder Friend Hockey2399! Exposed skin cold stick to a frozen piece of metal (like a flagpole) if there is any moisture on the surface. That’s why it’s so important to bundle up in cold weather. For example, it might not be fun, but if you play indoor sports and are sweaty, it’s even more important to bundle up before heading out into the cold weather! That way, your body temperature will stay the same and you won’t run the risk of getting a cold! :)

  18. “A Christmas Story” is my & my dad’s favorite movie! We always laugh at “I triple-dog-dare you!” & “Flick? Flick who?” In the name of the leg lamp, this is an awesome wonder!

    • Thanks so much for your SUPER (and very funny) comment, Wonder Friend Hailey! That movie really makes us chuckle, no matter how many times we’ve seen it! We hope you have a SUPER day… and you drink your Ovaltine! ;-)

  19. Hey WONDEROPOLIS!-
    I LOVE The Christmas Story It’s one of the best movies ever I watch it every year around this time and I always remember the line “It’ll shoot your eye out!!” :D Always a Pleasure to read these WONDERS It makes my day! :) Also, I am reading “The Watsons Go To Birmingham” And in the book, right at the beginning, one of the characters gets his lips stuck to a car mirror!! :) Thanks for all of your WONDERful WONDERS!
    -Smiles :)

    • Wohoo, we’re glad this Wonder was right up your alley, Smiles! We appreciate your super comment! Thanks for sharing your favorite memories from A Christmas Story! We hope you have a WONDERful day! :)

    • Great question, Sean! We think you’re one lucky duck– we wouldn’t want your tongue to get stuck to a frozen flagpole! We Wonder if it was sunny outside… that could have affected the temperature outside and maybe even the temperature of the flagpole! :)

  20. Yesterday my dog was chasing a squirrel up a frozen flagpole and stuck his tongue out to try to lick the squirrel and uh oh! He stuck his tongue to the flagpole! We needed a hair dryer to melt the ice and he was whimpering like a baby! And I bet he will never do it again!!!

    • Oh boy, we sure hope your dog is okay, Ella! We’re glad he learned his lesson, but we hope he has stopped whimpering! Thanks for WONDERing with us! :)

  21. I have seen the Christmas Story it’s funny. 2 years ago I stuck my tongue on a pole not on a flag pole put anyway I stuck my tonuge on a pole and I couldn’t get it unstuck until I did my tounge was bleeding a little only. Then got a sore it took off after a day or two but it didn’t hurt that much and it was funny and I still laugh about it today. I didn’t think it could really happen. TRUE STORY NOT LYING. For reals.

    • Yowza, we sure are glad to hear that you’re okay, Wonder Friend! That sounds like a painful experience– we’re glad you shared that story with us so we can all make sure we don’t try that on our own! Happy New Year! :)

    • YIKES, that sounds painful, Reagan! We bet there might be a little of pain involved, but that’s why it’s not a great idea to stick your tongue on a frozen pole! Thanks for sharing your comment, Reagan! We are glad to have a great Wonder Friend like you! :)

  22. I’m doing a report on a book called The Watsons go to Birmingham, and a character named Byron, got his tongue stuck to a glass car mirror. I was wondering how this happened?

    • YIKES, poor Byron must have been very curious! It sounds like a great book to read, too! We hope this Wonder helps with your report, Jackie, and as you continue to read the book, you might find how it happened! :)

    • Thanks for making us aware of this issue, Mrs. Miller. The settings on the original video changed, so we’ve replaced it with a different selection. We apologize for the inconvenience! Thanks for visiting WONDERopolis! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Will your tongue really stick to a frozen flagpole?
  • Is metal a good conductor of heat?
  • How can you get your skin unstuck when it’s frozen to something?

Wonder Gallery

802Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Ready to try a really COOL science experiment? No, you won’t need a flagpole. In fact, as we mentioned already, you don’t ever want to try sticking your tongue to a flagpole like Flick did in A Christmas Story.

Instead, grab a friend or family member and try this fun science experiment. You should only need a few simple supplies you already have around the house.

Find a piece of smooth, flat metal and put it in the freezer to freeze. Of course, if it’s cold enough outside, you can just find a piece of metal outside that’s already frozen.

Get a few washcloths to use for your experiment. Leave one dry. Wet one with cold water. Wet another one with hot water.

Now try placing the washcloths on the frozen metal. Does the dry one freeze and stick to the metal? What about the wet ones? Does one wet washcloth freeze faster than another?

Talk with your friends and family members about your findings. Isn’t science fun?

Still Wondering

EDSITEment!’s The Gift of Holiday Traditions: Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and Christmas Collection features resources relating to winter holidays and presents information about and activities relating to Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and Christmas.

 

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