More and more young people are splitting their tongues. By most counts, a couple of thousand people have undergone the painful forking procedure, an extreme form of body modification that gives one a serpentine look.

Allor’s method is called the “tie off,” but some piercing shops are using scalpels to perform the procedure. It’s done on the down-low, as piercing shops aren’t normally allowed to perform such splittings. In the modification community there’s fear of being seen as too edgy by local governments, which may seek to outlaw tongue-splitting, as some already have. In Illinois, the state legislature has approved a ban.

About 5 percent of those splitting their tongues are going to an oral surgeon who uses an argon laser, according to Steve Hayworth, a controversial tongue splitter based in Phoenix. He’s done hundreds of tongue-splittings with a scalpel and says the laser is the most traumatic and barbaric of methods, though there’s hardly consensus on that in the body manipulation community. Everyone who performs such modifications has a different opinion on the matter.

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