English language names for "le tchip" (AKA sucking your teeth)

Episode 8 of Na baro kè has led to a lot of comments about different names for a surun (or suuru), that is, “the act of sucking your teeth” (in disapproval of someone, etc).

In Bambara, the act as a noun is a surun or suuru. In French, this is easily translated one-to-one with le tchip. But in English, I wasn’t aware of anything similar. Instead, I always had to say a full expression like “sucking/kissing one’s teeth”.

In turns out that in some places, there is convenient one-to-one translation that is also sometimes used an onomatopoeia or “verbal gesture” representing the sound.

For future reference, here is a round-up of some of the options and various associated YouTube comments from the episode:

  • mtchew / tsw: Common in Nigeria and Ghana.

    We write it as “mtchew” in Nigeria, not “tchip”.

    Very interesting! So do people write it in text messages amidst English writing for instance? When written that way (“mtchew”) is it considered to be a specific language (e.g., Yoruba, Hausa, Pidgin) or is it cross-linguistic Nigerian? :slight_smile:

    It’s common here in Ghana as well. Yes, it’s written in informal text messages, often as “mtchew” or “tsw”. Is it considered to be a specific language? Not at all; it’s just a sound. It’s one of the sounds you hear a lot in primary school (usually made by girls as they roll their eyes at you). Back then, we (wrongly) called it “chuckling”.

  • teeth-sucking/kissing: Seems to be the “standard” literary form used in parts of Anglophone Africa and parts of the Caribbean.

    Thanks for the video! I keep reading novels out of Nigeria and other places in Africa that say things like “She sucked her teeth at him,” so I googled it and it brought me here. I loved seeing sarunchi in action, haha!

    Its used extensively in the Caribbean. Jamaicans call it kissing teeth.

  • steupsing; steups:

    In the southern caribbean we call it steupsing. The noun is steups. It can also be used jovially like “you must be joking”

  • tyuri: Suriname (it is unclear if this is considered to come from or be part of a specific language)

    In Suriname we do it also…we call it a tyuri!..It is [n]ot allowed for children to make a tyuri for elders…Its very disrespectful.

There is also and interesting question about whether “smacking your lips” (in Black American culture) is the same as a “tchip/steups/mtchew”:

Really? I’m Black American, from Chicago, and never heard a Black person do it. We “smack our lips” but it doesn’t have that drawn out “chewww” sound. The sound basically means the same thing, but it isn’t considered disrespectful. I’ve heard Jamaicans, Haitians, Belizean, Bahamian, Surinamese, and etc do it tho.

I hypothesize that single people can’t do the tchip as well as married people can. I got much better at doing it after I got married.

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