4

I'm looking for a word that describes the sound made when a person rubs their tongue on the side of their inner teeth. It's like a wet noise and it's supposed to denote a positive gesture rather than negative (tsking)

When I do it, I notice my lips bend upwards.

I wish I could remember a particular scene from a movie/tv show but I can't. However I believe when characters do it, they sometimes also make a gun gesture or point with their fingers.

I've searched quite a bit but haven't found a word that conveys this sound/gesture.

I need it for a scene in a book I'm writing so I can't just explain it, I'll need a word for it if it exists. If not I guess I'll have to change it.

For example in a scene where this gesture will happen it will be:

  • Character A: Can you fly this giant space ship?
  • Character B: Sure, easy! (then make the sound with his mouth to express it will be easy)

Hope all these ramblings help make it clear what I'm after.

edit: Here's the closest reference I could find, It's the sound Bender makes right around the 29th second mark - http://res.cloudinary.com/yoav-cloud/video/upload/futurama-word_z0jxlm.mp4

  • 'Tutting'? This could be misinterpreted for dubstep though. – marcellothearcane Jul 5 '17 at 9:42
  • 7
    Is the sound made just at one side of the mouth? In the situation you describe I would make a 'click' or 'pop' sound by placing the flat of my tongue against the roof of my mouth such that it creates a seal, then(forgive me for this description, I'm sure linguists have words for these actions) pulling down with the centre of the tongue while keeping the edges sealed, so that you create a slight vacuum between the tongue and roof then break the seal at one side where the tongue is closest to the molars. I would just call that 'clicking my tongue'. – Spagirl Jul 5 '17 at 9:54
  • 2
    @marcellothearcane Thank you, but having had a quick look at that, I'll stick with layman's terms! :) – Spagirl Jul 5 '17 at 10:02
  • 1
    Ok. Found a reference to share. From a Futurama episode no less. It's not exactly the sound I'm after but its the closest I could find. It's the sound Bender makes right around the 29th second mark - res.cloudinary.com/yoav-cloud/video/upload/… – poeticGeek Jul 5 '17 at 15:27
  • 2
    @poeticGeek clicking your teeth would be something different. Perhaps try googling for examples of 'clicked his tongue' and see what you think of how others use it. There is more than one way to make a click with your tongue so you may have to say 'clicked his tongue in approval' or something to distinguish from tsking and tutting. – Spagirl Jul 6 '17 at 11:55
5

This sound is used as an actual phoneme in many African languages such as Xhosa. In other words, in many languages this sound appears as part of a word. The technical name for a sound of this type is an unvoiced alveolar lateral click. In English speaking cultures, this sound is only used non-verbally, where it can have a variety of meanings. For example, English speaking horse-riders will use this sound to encourage their horses to start to move, or speed up. We also sometimes use this when winking as a gesture of camaraderie with the person we're winking to.

For an audio example of a voiceless alveolar lateral click see here.

For instructions on how to make them, see this video here.

If unvoiced alveolar lateral click is too long, you could of course, refer to it simply as a click.

  • The OP never really clarified exactly what was being described, so click is probably the closest and covers many possibilities. The Futurama sound was more of a buccal (cheek, one side) click which is not the dental click described in the OP. In informal terms, the OP originally asked for something like the 'tick-tock' sound but the Futurama clip has the 'giddy-up horse' sound. – Mitch Jan 8 '18 at 15:34
  • @Mitch The giddy-up horse sound (I kinda described it as such in the post) is the voiceless alveolar lateral click. The term buccal is an accurate description of the orientation of the closure, in the sense that the closure is made with the side rims of the tongue and the mid/back uppermolars inside the cheek. It often only occurs with the one side of the tongue and the inside of one set of upper molars, but is often equally made with two closures one on either side. If you have a phonetics student trying to make such a click, you simply tell them to do a giddyup noise (not those words!) – Araucaria Jan 8 '18 at 20:13
  • 1
    Love the video, love the letters popping out the speaker's mouth as he teaches viewers the (1) "horseriding click", the (2) "shame click" or "tut, tut" or "ticking clock click"; and the (3) "door knocking click" – Mari-Lou A Jan 8 '18 at 22:24
  • 1
    And in the context of OP’s example, I’d say “he clicked his tongue” or “he gave a click” or similar. – Jon Purdy Jan 9 '18 at 22:41
1

I have often thought of this sound as a verbal (or rather mouth-created) "wink" sound, as it is intended to convey a similar sort of sly innuendo or encouragement that a wink of an eye would do. It's apparently a common enough sentiment that it warrants a subsection on the wikipedia page for "Wink": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wink#The_.22click.22

Urban dictionary calls this sound a Chlick, though I've never heard that term.

A Google search for "wink click mouth" yields a lot of matching results, none of which seem to have a specific word for the sound.

If I were you I'd somehow use "wink" near "click of the tongue" in your story. Something like:

He winked and clicked his tongue in a ridiculously sassy fashion that made her think of Steve Martin doing his Wild And Crazy Guy routine.

"Here's lookin' at you, kid!" he drawled, clearly pleased with himself.

OK, she thought. Not so much Steve Martin, and more like Chris Kattan. Doing a Humphrey Bogart impression. Badly. She closed her eyes to keep from wincing.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.