This has been bothering me (a native English speaker) for a long time. It seems almost impossible outside of dialogue to describe the act of unconsciously spitting out a "Tch!" in response to something outrageous, comedic, etc. For example:

Bob tch'ed at Mary's absurd suggestion.

John merely tch'ed at the punchline and returned to his work.

Sally tch'ed and rolled her eyes. "He can't be serious!"

In want of the proper verb or phrase for this action, I often have to resort to just choosing another action for my written character to perform so that I can describe it better. But it's not very real to life.

3 Answers 3


I would use "chuffed".

chuff n. 1. A sound of or like the exhaust of a steam engine. - v.i. 2. to emit or proceed with chuffs. The train chuffed along.

Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language 1996 edition.

  • Ah, this is actually quite a good suggestion for describing the noise itself. Unfortunately, I can't find any dictionaries or prior usages attesting to its usage in this context.
    – Feryll
    Commented Aug 26, 2017 at 6:45
  • @Feryll books.google.com/…
    – Dave
    Commented Aug 26, 2017 at 11:41
  • @Feryll books.google.com/…
    – Dave
    Commented Aug 26, 2017 at 11:46
  • Nice. I shall support this usage until the day I die!
    – Feryll
    Commented Aug 26, 2017 at 17:14

I had a professor who often used tut or tut-tut to express disapproval.

From Merriam Webster:

tut (interjection, verb)

used to express disapproval or disbelief

intransitive verb tutted, tutting.

E.g., Bob tutted at Mary's absurd suggestion.


"Tsked" is an acceptable way to spell the sound you're thinking of.


  1. (used, often in quick repetition, as an exclamation of contempt, disdain, impatience, etc.)
  2. for shame!

Source: Dictionary.com

  • Saying "tsk, tsk, tsk" is something entirely different, though. It's not only a different sound that can't be used in the same circumstances (e.g. as a response to a joke), but "tsk" usually implies a conscious disapproval, rather than a (culturally relative) gut reaction.
    – Feryll
    Commented Aug 25, 2017 at 22:32
  • 1
    I'm not sure I agree that "tsk" implies "conscious disapproval." // How would you transcribe "tch," if not identically to "tsk"? Commented Aug 25, 2017 at 22:34
  • They're both dental clicks, but they're different sounds, to be sure. I've only ever seen "tsk" as here as synonymous to (as dictionary.com confirms) "for shame!" However, the "tch" as at 0:10 here sounds different, is never repeated, and can be used where "tsk (tsk tsk)" cannot be.
    – Feryll
    Commented Aug 25, 2017 at 22:41
  • Neither of those sounds is a dental click. But I will think on it. Commented Aug 25, 2017 at 22:44

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