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The Human Smile Can be Enigmatic Indeed.

Updated on June 28, 2011

The Dalmatian Ain't Foolin' Me!

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"If I see that NHS dentist again!""So?  I had to borrow dad's teeth.  What's it to ya!"
"If I see that NHS dentist again!"
"If I see that NHS dentist again!"
"So?  I had to borrow dad's teeth.  What's it to ya!"
"So? I had to borrow dad's teeth. What's it to ya!"

Animals don't appreciate smiling.

It is almost universally accepted, at least in our little corner of it, that a smile signals a positive and happy emotion. In fact, so much so, that kids, especially girls, are encouraged to smile more and they will be socially accepted.

Scientific evidence supports this finding that females who smile are viewed as more sexy by males and are likely to have more dates and to marry well.

Curiously, the same studies also conclude that the male smile is also usually attractive to the opposite sex - but not always; a serious mien often wins the fair lady. Too much and too ready a smile by the male may detract from his appeal as a leader and able to give best support to any future union and its offspring. The strong, silent man may be the most attractive to the female of our species: probably a man who can muster a wry grin as he pulls his wallet out again.

What really is a smile? Physically, it involves the employment of the zygomatic major muscles at the corners of the mouth, and, for those really warm smiles that spread to the eyes; muscles around the eyes and cheeks - a full laugh, on the other hand, uses no less than 15 muscle groups and may or may not be associated with smiling.

Smiling signals the same - or similar - emotions in much of the world. In several countries, however, principally Japan, smiling more often signals anxiety and smiles exhibiting positive emotions may be reserved for close friends and family.

On the other extreme perhaps are found the North Americans, some of whom attach a smile to their faces from dawn to dusk - especially if they are in the service industry. We have all experienced the “Pan-Am smile” (those whom can recall that great airline, defunct for 40 years). Also sometimes called the “Botox Smile,” it is an artificial smile used, commonly, by harried airline personnel who would probably rather attach their $20,000 crowns to your jugular than grin at you!

There are many different smiles all used and interpreted by the cultures using them to donate a large range of human emotions, from the “I love you smile,” (or the “I want to bed you” lascivious smirk), to smiles denoting incredulity, cynicism and even anger. (I note that politicians rarely smile because the phoniness would immediately be detected by the electorate. (A facial expression, more common by the rest of us in the case of constipation, is the norm).

A scientist many years ago identified the various muscle groups involved in positive smiling: he was Dr Duchenne, and the Duchenne Smile has been the standard for this type of emotion, involving both the zygomatic and obicularis oculi muscles (which affect the cheeks and cause the wrinkling around the eyes).

Unfortunately, we tend to use our smiles in the natural world as well: smiling at our pets, animals in zoos and even those minding their own business in the wild. To nearly all wild creatures, a smile is seen as a snarl. Showing one’s teeth to animals is a warning and indicates aggression; it can also be a fear signal from a submissive animal, (as it can in humans). (Chimps. are a case apart).

Your pet dog may indeed appear to smile sometimes, but it is more likely an anxiety twitch, or even him copying you beaming at him and not really knowing what is expected of him, (“Jeez, what’s a poor Lhasa to do, first she gives me a cuddle and now she looks like she wants me for dinner!”).

In the last 10 years or so, modern dentistry has improved to be able to give millions of people better and whiter artificial caps than their original teeth. This has given rise to what I call “The Celebrity Smile.” Putting on the television we find a whole slew of presenters, actors, models and even cauliflower-eared footballers whose brilliant, mega-watt beams make a Great White’s predatory gape seem like the opening to a bat cave!

Of course, work like this doesn’t come cheap, in fact, dentists are the real sharks of the medical world, along with the governments who add their 60% in taxes (luxury goods tha knows!), along with another 20% in VAT.

But it has to be done. The expression, “Poor man’s teeth,” invented by one of our heartless crime writers, has labeled many of us with the “Mark of Cain,” scurrying about our little nether-worlds, hardly able to speak and never to smile, until we can afford to fork over the price of a luxury car and buy some pretty teeth.

Quixotically, we even see pet dogs on TV ads., which have let their teeth go and have to be fitted with artificial dentures (the curse of mankind). The bulbous and shining picture of a bulldog so equipped almost made me fall off the chair the other night. Luckily, we were rescued by a German Shepherd with its own choppers, industriously munching on a “Chew Bone,” or whatever other piece of overpriced rubbish they were promoting. An effective ad., though. Buy your doggie an appropriately sized REAL bone, is my advice - they hate this other crappola!

Back to dentures. The UK is the only country left in the First World to still inflict its poorer victims with plastic, unsupported, artificial dentures. In the rest of Europe, it’s all implants now, or, at the very least, dentures with anchor points. If you want decent dentistry in the UK, forget the NHS!

But I am getting away from the subject of this hub: smiles and smiling…no wonder a score of editors hated me! And in those days, you could have what teeth you wanted, any or none. Nuf said.

Most of us don’t have to think about how and when we smile. It comes to us as naturally as the rising of the sun each day (UK excepted, it is only seen a few times each year).

…or how we laugh. But laughter is a thing we do as a group activity, whereas we can smile, joyfully or sadly, when alone.

Perhaps as we remember the joys of our long and marvelous life with its ups and downs, we do allow ourselves a small :)…

Note: Hubber, reminded me in the comment below that a frown takes more muscles than a smile! Worth remembering that...


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    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 6 years ago from America

      I love seeing people smile and dogs.The dog pictues are so cute. Great hub. Voted Up.

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 6 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hi :)

      The sunshine makes me smile, so it has been great the past week!

    • bac2basics profile image

      Anne 6 years ago from Spain

      Well I´ll gu to foot a r´stairs. I am obviously from Yorkshire, but the last place I lived in the UK was Preston, lancashire.Small world. Right, must get on now.

      have a nice day. Bye.

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Hi Annie: My family is from Blackburn, Lancashire (wrong rose) but I was born down south...I farmed in Yorkshire and remember a lot of the sayings, too. Such as "Tha knows."

      "Nowt," (nothing) "Stearved to deeth? (cold) and the rest.

      I speak Spanish, too, after 15 years in Mexico.


    • bac2basics profile image

      Anne 6 years ago from Spain

      Great hub.The dogs with the false teeth really made me laugh. One of my dogs smiles a lot too, he is a bit nervy so it´s probably a submissive thing. Having said that though, I live in spain and lots of dogs here smile, maybe it´s the climate!! I have to ask, Are you from Yorkshire by any chance ? I picked up on the "Tha knows"

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      My belief is they may imitate us: if not, they are "play snarling" or having some sort of rictus. They definitely enjoy humor and fun, so...who knows? Bob

    • Naomi's Banner profile image

      Naomi's Banner 6 years ago from United States

      Your writings are excellant and a joy to read. I can't say it enough. I am a dog owner and have had some definate smiles out of my dogs. They don't smile at all only me. Could it be I imagined it by chance?

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Thanks. I think our pets get used to it, although it might not pay to grin hugely at a bear or a lion...Bob

    • stricktlydating profile image

      StricktlyDating 6 years ago from Australia

      Wow I've never considered that point about smiling at an animal! Voted up. A really interesting read.

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 6 years ago from The English Midlands


      And the whale obviously felt great, too!

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Great Trish: It's the sort of clip that makes you believe all over again in man's basic goodness and the whale's desire to communicate. I can just imagine how the crew felt when the last bit of that odious net fell away, can't you? Bob

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 6 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hi Bob :)

      I mentioned the "Saving Valentina" video on one of my hubs, because it became relevant to the discussion ~ and it was very popular with the readers.

      Thanks for letting me know about it. :)

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 6 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hi :)

      My younger son is 21! Not so little.

      We have a cat. He probably does have us under his control :)

      We had a rescue pup when I was at home. He was a sad little thing, who grew into the most fantastic, intelliegent and loyal dog.

      I'm going to watch the Valentina video now :)

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      You have a thoughtful little chap there (or big chap?). A friend has a Lhasa that was mistreated by its first woman owner who used to kick the poor little thing and it had - has - developed a nervous face, which is a little smile like an oldser with dentures! It has a wonderful life now (for years) and a toyboy minischnauzer who adores her. By the way, if you want to see a great, joyous video, try downloading "Saving Valentina" it is beautiful...Bob

      Yes...cats are serious, it's all about power and control!

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 6 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hello :) :) :)

      My son mentioned, the other day, while we were sitting in the vet's waiting room, that dogs often look as if they are smiling, but cats tend to look serious most of the time.

    • BobbiRant profile image

      BobbiRant 6 years ago from New York

      Well this hub certainly made me smile. Smiling is wonderful, it makes people wonder what we are up to. Great hub.

    • Hound Cat profile image

      Hound Cat 6 years ago from Los Angeles area of Southern California USA

      Animals still get agressive when I am around. There must be more to it than the rare smile that I display. Inspiring hub.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

      The world is definitely a better place when people smile.

    • profile image

      Sophia Angelique 6 years ago

      Ooooooops!!! I wondered why something didn't feel quite right!

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 6 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      The best smiles are spontaneous. Like when people do stupid human tricks!

    • profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago

      Hi WOL: Ears pinned back; teth bared...that's the attack mode for sure. You wouldn't see me patting his head and saying "Nice doggie!"

      Hi Sophia...Maybe it was because you didn't know how to spell his name! (Ooooo...hate me, hate me!) Bob

      (I had to look up Dalmatian because I had though it was "Dalmation!")

    • profile image

      Sophia Angelique 6 years ago

      Your hub made me smile. However, I kept wondering what my Alsation pet thought of me all those years ago when I smiled at him..

    • profile image

      writeronline 6 years ago

      Nice job, Bob. I smiled as I read, (auto-suggestion? or just plain old-fashioned evocation..), and couldn't help thinking when I saw the Dalmatian pic, that's the exact expression dogs often wear, while barring your way and looking directly at your crotch, as their owner, standing behind, confidently asserts "Don't worry about him, he won't hurt you." Sure....

    • profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago

      Thanks for all the positive comments, guys. Yes, a Pug and a French Bulldog, Quester...and the Dalmatian of course with the "real" animal smile!

    • d_annnielle profile image

      d_annnielle 6 years ago

      Lol Great article!

    • profile image 6 years ago

      nice hub - more muscles to frown than to smile (without the eyes being involved) - sorry about the sun in the UK.

      (Had a male Shar-Pei who would crawl on my lap and smile - but only for me - strange dog (65 pounds of muscle and skin and great personality)).

      is that a pub and a french bulldog with the false teeth?

      But as usual, nice read -

      voted up


    • profile image

      break up books 6 years ago

      lovely and informative hub full of sense! I really enjoyed this!

    • profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago

      Thanks for that, 50 caliber. I guess the jury's out on whether - or how - dogs smile, with their tails,I suppose. A good reason for never docking them. Bob

    • profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago

      Thanks a million, Will (Grins!!) Bob

    • 50 Caliber profile image

      50 Caliber 6 years ago from Arizona

      diogenes, great article about much. I'm a dogman got them critters in every corner learned or not I see the most of them smile. My Rottys smile a lot, but it's as you said, with them it's wise to know if they are happy to see you or smiling at the thought of burying ones femur. I'm much the same though, my smiles are often and you just never know what it is I'm smiling about. Back in the day I'd smile and start to laugh as if something were funny, just before the fight broke out, that said those who knew me would start making room when I gave a wise guy a big old grin, funny thing "smiling", 50

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Great Hub, Bob! I'm all smiles!


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