This is essentially a translation question and as such off-topic, but please bear with me for a moment.

Allappare is an Italian verb that is used to refer to the astringent effect that you may experience when you eat unripe fruits, ( persimmons and bananas for instance) with the result that your mouth and tongue become dry and your ability to chew is temporarily limited.

The English equivalent expression , according to most reliable dictionaries, apprears to be set someone's teeth on edge, which, by any definition I could find online, doesn't actually correspond to the meaning cited above and is used mainly in a figurative sense:

  • If something, ​especially a ​noise, sets ​your ​teeth on ​edge, it ​annoys you very much: That DJ's ​voice really sets my ​teeth on ​edge.


  • What the English expression that best fit the definition of "allappare" cited above?

  • What is the literal meaning of "set someone's teeth on edge"? How close is it to the description given above of "allappare"?


2 Answers 2


The sensation is said to cause the mouth to pucker. From Up North Again: More of Ontario's Wilderness, from Ladybugs to the Pleiades by D Bennet and T Tiner:

Chokecherries are not as dangerous as their name suggests, though they can taste harsh and astringent, causing the mouth to pucker and dry.

  • This appears to be a close fit, any suggestion on the "teeth on edge"" part of the question?
    – user66974
    Commented May 3, 2016 at 5:48
  • @Josh61 - Trying to swallow something bitter has a pharmacological effect on the body when sensed by the lingual nerve (?) of the tongue. "Any food that is too dry to form a bolus will not be swallowed." I surmise that a similar function is at play for astringents, one that seals the esophagus; involuntarily jutting the lower jaw forward: setting your teeth on edge.
    – Mazura
    Commented May 3, 2016 at 6:21
  • @Mazura - it is clear that "teeth on edge" is part of the "consequences" of eating unripe fruits, but it does not suggest the exact meaning. It strikes me that reliable dictionaries suggest it as the closest translation considering that it is mainly used in a figurative sense. Or am I missing something?
    – user66974
    Commented May 3, 2016 at 8:26
  • @Josh61 - That's my theory as to why that idiom was chosen (the 'bitter-gag-reflex' is proving hard to research). BTW, that's how I like my bananas. I think that when allappare is used for a sound, it is figurative (you'd have to tell me). Otherwise, with food, it's referring to the "gag reflex" (for lack of a better term). Nails down a chalkboard stimulates mine, as does the sound of tearing cloth... "Man, that DJ's ​voice is really astringent."
    – Mazura
    Commented May 3, 2016 at 22:47

Set one's teeth on edgephrases.org.uk

Literally, to cause an unpleasant tingling of the teeth. More generally, the expression is used to describe any feeling of unpleasant distaste.

The earlier form of the phrase was 'to edge the teeth' and described the feeling of sensitivity caused by acidic tastes, like raw rhubarb.

My teeth have never tingled; I've no idea what they're talking about.

Astringency is also the Dry, Puckering Mouthfeel caused by tannins found in many fruits such as blackthorn (sloe berries), Aronia chokeberry, chokecherry, bird cherry, quince and persimmon fruits, and banana skins. The tannins (which are types of polyphenols) bind the salivary proteins, causing them to precipitate or aggregate and lead to a rough "sandpapery" or dry sensation in the mouth. Tannins are found in some red wines and teas. A small amount of astringency is expected in some wines, especially young red wines made from grapes such as cabernet sauvignon and merlot. –Wiki

Astringents do not directly inhibit your ability to masticate. They cause a reduction in the effectiveness of your saliva making it difficult to swallow.

*As a part of the gag reflex, a mechanism that I do not fully understand, with your tongue in contact with polyphenols (i.e., tannins) you will find your teeth have a temporarily malocclusion; a by-product of the esophagus involuntarily closing; where your teeth will literally be on edge. [*citation needed]

The idiom captures "Bleh!" quite well. Say it, and see how far your lower jaw juts forward... and then try to close your mouth.


Originally, I agreed that the idiom wasn't, "on target." Now I think it's somewhat cheeky (apt, but not required, to be simultaneously figurative and literal) and close enough for government work.

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