Local Syracuse man discovers hidden world record

Syracuse's Byron Schlenker breaks the Guinness World Record for the World's Widest Tongue.

“Gee, I wonder how wide my tongue is?” Byron Schlenker wondered to his eighth-grade daughter, Emily, on a ride home from the Onondaga Free Library in Syracuse. Along with them was the 2012 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records.

Emily had gotten the book for a class assignment, and while flipping through it Schlenker had happened upon the page with the "World’s Widest Tongue" category.

This chance occurrence prompted Schlenker to have his tongue measured that night. The measurements proved what Schlenker never thought would be possible: he held the current world record for the world’s widest tongue at 8.3 cm.

“I know it's wide, but I never thought it would be the widest in the world,” Schlenker said.

For months, Schlenker did nothing about his anomaly. When he finally contacted the world records office, he was told that he needed to pay a fee of $2,500 to get an official to come confirm his record. With that discouraging news, Schlenker momentarily gave up.

However, two months later a representative from London contacted him.  She was in the process of throwing out old applications and had come across his. She asked him if he wanted to send in some measurements for free. One doctor’s measurement and a couple of notary signatures later, Schlenker was the proud owner of the world record holder's plaque.

For the next few months, Schlenker remained quiet about his news, save a few family and friends, with the fear that someone would hear and try to break his record. For Schlenker, getting his photograph in the 2015 record book was all he wanted. By fall, the book was officially published and the word was out.

When originally applying for the record, Schlenker had no idea how much attention he would come to receive.

“I just never thought about it. I didn’t realize this book goes all over the world,” Schlenker said. 

A few days after the book was published, Schlenker began to receive a steady stream of emails and calls from fans and reporters alike.

One of the more exciting calls was an invitation to participate on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, the phone call occurring just a few days ago. Schlenker agreed, and has since filled out a screening test and is awaiting his score. If it’s high enough, he could travel to Connecticut for the Oct. 18 taping of the show.

He also participated in an extensive photo shoot with Guinness for the book.

“It’s just been a funny experience; who knows where it will end,” Schlenker said with a laugh.

“It’s a little weird when someone comes up to me and asks me if my dad is in the record book. But it’s still cool,” his daughter Emily said.

In the months following the initial buzz, Schlenker has embraced his fifteen minutes, a “flash in the pan," as he refers to it. His tongue now measures even wider.

“When you start sticking out your tongue, you learn to stretch it and make it wider,” Schlenker said.

It now measures between 8.7 cm and 8.8 cm, which is well beyond his previous measurement of 8.3 cm. When asked if he is going to resubmit his proportions next year, Schlenker is unsure.

“I told my wife I wasn’t going to. But when I got a call from Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, I reconsidered,” Schlenker said. 

In the end, Schlenker doesn’t take his record-holding status too seriously, considering the event a funny coincidence. He sticks out his tongue for anyone who asks, even giving away signed copies of the book that he bought himself. Though he is the first to admit that his record is a bit weird, he embraces it wholly.

“Have you ever seen Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory?” Schlenker said.  “A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men."

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