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.

  • 1
    I know exactly what you mean, and have been trying to find an appropriate term. All I can come up with is paralanguage and inserts, but they both describe features different from those you have in mind. – Barrie England Oct 11 '12 at 11:39
  • 1
  • 3
    You can add "oral gestures" as an answer to your own question. – coleopterist Oct 11 '12 at 15:59
  • Surely we can do better than 'oral gestures'? That just sounds wrong. – 5arx Oct 11 '12 at 16:53
  • Sticking one's tongue out or baring one's teeth also constitute 'oral gesture', yet I feel they are a different order of communicative expression to teef[sic] kissing. – 5arx Oct 11 '12 at 21:50

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. – 5arx Oct 11 '12 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. – Matt E. Эллен Oct 11 '12 at 11:12
  • What is "the other expression" ? – shrm Oct 11 '12 at 11:20
  • "sucking the tongue through clenched teeth" - most definitely not the same as tch – Matt E. Эллен Oct 11 '12 at 12:01

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.