Medical Microfiction: Glottis

Guardians

When the sunset is slanting, what keeps the ones who prowl at bay?

The guardians do.

There, just beyond that stand of pines, they’re waiting like a pair of hands to spring upon the spider, a noose to choke off hot breath.

Children linger in the fields. The sunset slants in, and the prowlers come running with quick little legs, their great big jaws a-gaping.

And just beyond the stand of pines, the guardians spring upon them, saying, This far you may go, and no further.

They do not relish their work. They hold the line and pray for mercy.

 —————————————————————————————————

Coronal section of larynx and upper part of tr...
A view of the larynx, or the voicebox. Can you spot the two “guardians”? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I always get excited when I write a blog post about something related to my happy little corner of science (namely, Speech Science). Today we’re talking about the glottis, which is found in your larynx, or voice box. It produces the buzzing sound that gives you a voice. If you place your hand on your throat and hum, you can feel it vibrating.

The glottis is made up of your two vocal folds (also called vocal cords) and the space between them. This area is the gateway to your lungs. Its responsibility is to make sure we don’t let anything liquid or solid down the wrong pipe. Think of them as the guardians in your throat, ready to snap closed and hold the line against bad things that want to enter.

Why might they be unwilling at the end of my story? This is to illustrate how they work when we’re speaking. While they can seal the throat during eating, the vocal folds don’t shut all the way when speaking. They’re in a state of flux, tensed just enough that the air pressure from your lungs can break through their seal, thus producing vibration and speech.

Of course, on another level, I think the reluctance of the guardians in today’s story is an illustration of profound goodness. Even when fighting something we all agree is evil, the best among us may feel a little sadness and regret that the evil exists to begin with. The best soldier may long for a day when war is unnecessary. The best doctor may hope to work herself out of a job by curing diseases.

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4 thoughts on “Medical Microfiction: Glottis

    1. HA!! Very funny, and precisely right. Fun fact: if you’re even thinking about speaking while eating/drinking, it raises your chance of choking because your body can be all, “Hey! Open the glottis!”

  1. I didn’t quite follow the micro fiction – Guardians – but the explanation that followed – light bulb 🙂

    Occasionally some thing does slip through and we end up choking, coughing and tearing.

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