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你有没有继承卷舌的能力?

更新时间:2018-2-18 11:05:15 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Do you inherit the ability to roll your tongue?
你有没有继承卷舌的能力?

Stand in front of a mirror, open your mouth slightly and try to bring the sides of your tongue up towards each other to make a U-shape. If you can do it you are a tongue-roller, along with between 65 and 81% of people, more of them women than men.

站在镜子面前,把嘴巴微微张开,尝试把舌头两边卷起来,变成U形。如果你能够做到,那就说明你是属于会卷舌的那类人。大约65%至81%的人会卷舌,其中女性的比例高于男性。

If you tried this before, the chances are it was in a biology lesson on genetics at school. I remember sitting on my high stool at the lab bench trying in vain to roll my tongue, while my friends seemed to be able to do it effortlessly. The reason we couldn’t all do it, we were told, is because it is a simple genetic trait. You had either inherited the right variant of the tongue-rolling gene or you hadn’t. And if you hadn’t, you would never be able to do it.

如果你尝试过这件事,那么很有可能是在学校生物课学习基因的时候。我记得高中时坐在实验室的长凳上反复努力,就是卷不起舌头,而我的朋友们似乎毫不费力就达标了。老师告诉我们,做不到的原因是一个简单的基因特征。要么你继承了卷舌的基因变异,要么你没有继承该基因。如果你没有这个基因,你应该是不可能学会卷舌的。

Determined not to beaten at this admittedly pointless skill, I spent idle moments practising. To my surprise, eventually, I could do it. This puzzled me, as a genetically-inherited capability is not something you should be able to learn to do. The reason I could, is that the simple inheritance notion of tongue-rolling is a myth. Still, even today, you can find this theory in biology textbooks.

虽然这个技能显然没有什么意义,但是我还是下决心要学会它,所以在不忙的时候,我就会练习卷舌。让我惊讶的是,最后我竟然学会了。这让我感到困惑,既然它是遗传基因决定的,那按理我应该是学不会的。我之所以能学会,是因为卷舌由基因决定只是一个谜团。虽然在如今的生物学课本上,你还是能找到这个理论。

It was the leading geneticist Alfred Sturtevant who suggested back in 1940 that tongue-rolling was a Mendelian trait, meaning that it was inherited not as a blend of your parents’ genes, but from one of your parents. Eye colour, skin tone and the presence of freckles are thought to work in this way (although we now know that these too can be affected by variants of other genes too).

1940年,权威基因学家阿尔弗雷德·斯特蒂文特(Alfred Sturtevant)提出卷舌是一种孟德尔式特征(孟德尔是奥地利遗传学家,Mendelian trait),这就意味着它并不是双亲基因的混合,而是来自父母中的一人。眼睛的颜色、皮肤的色调和有无雀斑被认为是孟德尔式特征。(尽管我们现在知道这些特征也可能受到其他基因变异的影响。)

He noted that a few children refused to open their mouths to reveal whether or not they could do it. He guessed they couldn’t. From those who were prepared to reveal their tongues, he found four who could roll their tongues despite the fact that none of their parents could. Nonetheless he concluded that tongue rolling was conditioned, at least in part, by heredity.

他提到,一些孩子拒绝张开嘴给别人看他们会不会卷舌。他的猜测是他们不会。在发现那些准备好给别人看舌头的孩子中,有4个自己会卷舌,但是他们的父母不会。尽管如此,他的结论是卷舌至少有一部分是来自遗传。

If this is correct, then identical twins, since they are genetically identical, should either both be tongue rollers or neither of them should be able to do it. But in a study from the 1950s of 33 twins, seven sets didn’t match up, comprising one roller and one non-roller.

如果这个理论是正确的,那么基因完全相同的双胞胎应该同为卷舌者,或者同时不会卷舌。但是在20世纪50年代对33对双胞胎进行的一项研究发现,有7对双胞胎不一致,其中一个会卷舌,另一个不会。

To Alfred Sturtevant’s credit, on seeing this research, he declared in his book in 1965 that tongue rolling wasn’t a Mendelian case after all and that he was “embarrassed to see it listed” as such. But that hasn’t stopped the myth being taught and perpetuated in many schools today.

值得肯定的是,阿尔弗雷德·斯特蒂文特在发现该研究以后,在1965年的著作中宣称卷舌并不是孟德尔式特征。当他看到有人把卷舌列入其中时,感到很尴尬。但是这并未阻止这一说法在很多学校里流传下来,并延续至今。

To complicate matters further, some people can’t in fact be classified as rollers or non-rollers because they can curl the sides of their tongue up slightly, without being able to make the full U.

更复杂的一点是,一些人既不能算会卷舌,也不能算不会卷舌,因为他们的舌头两边可以微微卷起,但是不能完全变成U形。

You could argue that tongue-rolling doesn’t matter. It’s not exactly a useful skill. But its insignificance is precisely the reason it makes an interesting topic for genetic studies. It’s not something that most people practice or even discuss, so, when studying it, you can limit the environmental influences affecting it. And after decades of investigation, what do we know? Well, it is likely that there is some genetic element, but not one that is straightforward. Instead it might involve multiple genes or variants of genes.

你可以辩称卷舌并不重要,因为它不是一项有用的技能。但是这正是它称为基因研究中一个有趣话题的原因。大多数人不会练习卷舌,甚至不会讨论卷舌,所以在研究时就可以减少环境的影响。在数十年的研究后,我们了解到了什么?有可能存在一些基因方面的原因,但是并不是与一个基因直接相关。相反,它可能涉及多个基因,或者基因变异。

And it seems I’m not alone in learning through practice. When John McDonald, from the University of Delaware’s Department of Biological Sciences, asked 33 non-roller students to practise tongue-rolling each day, after a month one extra person could do it. Admittedly that’s not many. But maybe other people have succeeded too. If you have taught yourself to roll your tongue, I’d be interested to hear about it.

而且似乎不止我一个人通过练习学会了卷舌。特拉华大学(University of Delaware)生物学系的约翰·麦克唐纳(John McDonald)让33位不会卷舌的学生每天练习卷舌。每过一个月就多一个学生学会卷舌。不得不承认,这个数量并不多。但是可能其他人也获得了成功。如果你自学卷舌成功,我会有兴趣了解一下你的故事。

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