Jamaican-style patois and derivations thereof seem to be on the rise again in British cities after a lull (I remember it being very popular in the 70s and early 80s). While on a trip to London I was struck by what native speakers of that idiom refer to as kissing teef [sic] - a sound made to indicate disapproval by sucking the tongue through clenched teeth.

This is analogous (I think) to 'tutting' in British English which although not strictly speaking a word, has become one and is included in the OED. Do these parts of speech have a name? And can anyone offer other examples of these in English or any other languages?

UPDATE: Just found an academic paper on the subject which refers to them as oral gestures.


2 Answers 2


Perhaps non-verbal interjection?

There are a number of expressions in American English that approximate a not-quite-verbal expression for disapproval.

  • tsk-tsk (when expressed as a a sucking sound made by pulling the tongue away from the roof of the mouth)
  • mmm-mmm (a short repeated humming sound, the second of which is descending in tone; a rising in tone indicates warning)
  • feh (a voiced exhale beginning with an F sound)
  • heh (a voiced exhale beginning with an H sound)

UPDATE: The original poster's addition of a possible name for the type of expression, oral gestures, is interesting. Several of the examples I list above are often accompanied by a negative head shaking.

  • +1. Can I add the (southern?) American 'mmm-hmm' which, to my UK English-accustomed ears indicates a sort of grim resignation. I'm thinking of wise old African-American women in films now.
    – immutabl
    Oct 11, 2012 at 21:46

"Tch-tch-tch", which is commonly used to express disagreement/dissatisfaction.

  • 1
    I don't think this answers what part of speech the other expression occurs in. Oct 11, 2012 at 11:12
  • What is "the other expression" ?
    – shrm
    Oct 11, 2012 at 11:20
  • "sucking the tongue through clenched teeth" - most definitely not the same as tch Oct 11, 2012 at 12:01

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