7 junio, 2024

Eskimo kiss: what it is, origin and meaning

What is the eskimo kiss?

He Eskimo kiss It is a traditional gesture among the Eskimos that consists of pressing the tip of the nose with that of the partner, and rubbing both noses to express affection.

As its name indicates, this gesture originates from the Eskimo or Inuit culture. Believed to have been born in Alaska, it expresses warmth, trust and love between two people. It is such a nice gesture that it has generated sympathy around the world, popularizing its use.


Imitation as a starting point

One of the theories that tries to explain the origin of this gesture maintains that the Eskimo kiss is born from the imitation of the behavior of some animal species, especially those that have a degree of organization that allows them to live in herds, work together and care for the young of other females without distinguishing between them.

Among these species (big cats, canines in the wild, etc.), the sense of smell is highly developed. Although the gesture of bringing their snouts closer to their partners or their young could be interpreted as a manifestation of affection, it actually implies something more vital to their social scheme; that is, identify the nearby individual by smell.

This theory accompanied the Inuits from their appearance and throughout their evolution as a people, through which it is explained how they adapted their human needs to show affection in the hostile environment they inhabit.

The cold as an explanation

A different theory, perhaps more pragmatic, states thatDue to the very low temperatures that the Inuits endure on a daily basis, they learned that «Western kisses», the ones we get used to in more benevolent climates, could put their lips and tongues at risk.

The saliva that is shared in a kiss where the lips touch could become frozen, uniting the couple in a painful kiss and exposing them to methods of separation that are no less painful.

How did it become known in the West?

The Eskimos or Inuits were isolated tribes from the rest of the world. The weather and geographical features are responsible for such a situation.

However, in the early 1920s, a Hollywood film producer, Robert J. Flaherty, decided to make a film about these isolated human groups. To this end, he lived for a time with one of these tribes to document their customs.

The film, silent, was called Nanook of the Northwas released in 1922, and constitutes one of the first ethnographic documentaries that established the genre in the cinema.

It collected countless Inuit traditions, and among those stills was the way an Eskimo mother lavished affection on her baby. This tender gesture did not go unnoticed by viewers, who coined the term «Eskimo kiss» and began to use it as a sign of affection between couples.

Today, all social networks record how popular the kunik (Inuit name) has become throughout the world. Mothers and children, couples and even people with their pets, are the favorite subjects of the photos that are constantly uploaded to the web.


contemporary meanings

One of the explanations given to the kunik is that the Inuits express their love, affection and concern for their partners by putting their faces extremely close and sharing their breath with their loved one. That breath of air would be an unbreakable bond based on sharing what life gives them both.

Magic and the mystical are also part of the customs of these towns, and this breath of life can be interpreted as “sharing souls”. Other authors affirm that this Eskimo kiss has a more erotic twist than the one previously expressed.

Indeed, the proximity of the couple allows them to breathe their breath and, according to these authors, this would be the Western equivalent of rubbing hands, caressing the hair or any of these gestures and foreplay that would lead to the sexual act.

The previous explanations of the meaning of the kunik obey the evolution of behavior and the modernization of life in the Inuit tribes, that is, they are contemporary meanings that are attributed to this gesture.

meaning in documentary

During the time that Robert J. Flaherty lived with the Inuit groups, he was able to come to know that this demonstration of love and affection has nothing to do with relationships, romance or sexual games.

In their language (called Inupiak), kunik It is a word that refers to the verb to smell. Even the way in which it is said that Flaherty witnessed the famous «Eskimo kiss» is a little different from the way in which it is spread worldwide today.

Knowing that kunik refers to “smell”, you can understand what Flaherty picked up on his films: the mother rested her face against her son’s cheek, and in that small space that was left, each one could feel the smell of the other. It is common to see this gesture towards children, not towards adults.

It is possible that the movement of the nose that was misinterpreted as part of the kunik was just an attempt by the mother to warm her son’s nose, since that is one of the parts of the human body that cools faster, compared to others due to the little blood supply it receives.


Eskimo kisses. Recovered from kunik-Kunik.wordpress.com.
Eskimo Kissing. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org.
7 Facts about Inuit Peoples. Recovered from quecuriosidades.com.
The Art of the Kiss. Retrieved from dw.com.
The Eskimo Kiss does not exist. Retrieved from hoy.es.

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