Thursday, February 23, 2006

Suck teeth


That is the sound of a thousand and one expressions without you speaking a single word.

Is the wordless sound of vexation. But depending on the context, with amusement on you lips, it can mean, “Ahh man, you joking, who you think you fooling?”

With one long “stchuuuuup” and you eyes looking thin and mean, you can cut a big man down to li’l boy size.

With a short “stchup” and a snicker, you can tell a rival gyal that she is nothing.

“Stchuuuup” is the “suck teeth” sound. Some does call it “stew teeth.”

Yesterday the whole day I suck my teeth.

We had a powercut, on and off, yesterday. But that ain’t why I suck my teeth.

Yesterday I sew and embroider to replace them five handmade things that the ex-cleaning lady disappear with. I suck me teeth with every jab o’ that needle into the cloth.


Meaning: “Hope she fall in mud and swallow a mouthful.”


Meaning: “I design, cut, bleed when the needle jook me…and all this time she just skulking in the sidelines, waiting to reap what I sew...sow…”


Meaning: [censored.]

See? Suck teeth can convey anything. And some folks can take this form of expression to “art” level. Like me Auntie A. now living in the U.SA. When she vex and suck she teeth, the sound unreel and fly out and wrap around the whole area. In it, you hear things you granny shouldn’t hear. But remember! Auntie A. ain’t say a word, so if you granny hear, that is okay too.

For years I use to wonder where suck teeth come from. Then one night I watching local tv [when we had a tv].

I been watching a African movie ‘bout some village women, they had a li’l argument. One o’ them get really vex. She release a potent suck teeth. In it, I hear every cuss word that I know and don’t know. It did long and winding. Only Auntie A. coulda match that.

Aha, so that is where it come from, I think. I dunno, I just think so ‘cause I see it in that movie.

Anyway, in Guyana now, whether you ancestors born in Africa, China, India, Portugal or England or here, suck teeth is the cross-culture language without words. Li’l children do it; old people with only gums suck they teeth too; aunties, uncles, mothers, fathers and all the rest, do it.

To suck you teeth, you got to pout you lips in a li’l pout, clench you top and bottom teeth close, close. Push the tip o’ you tongue against you teeth. Suck in air. Stchuuuuu….when you want to finish close you lips…uuup.

When you become expert, you can even do a side-of-you-mouth suck teeth. This you do when you joking with you friends and one o’ them say something nutty.


What is that sound?

Suck teeth around Blogland.



Quick said...

Perfect. I'm sure we used to do that as kids. As our vocabulary grew, we just got lazy and it just got replaced with expletives.

I like the degrees and means of expression too. A shake of the head, roll of the eyes... Going to practice my stchuuuping skills very next opportunity.

Ri said...

Struuuuup. Wikid post, GG.

Chai Anyone? said...

i know the sound u talking about. happens all over the west indies i think. i know it sure happens here in st kitts.

R2K said...

Hehe so strange and interesting. I seldom feel like something is so new, but this was!


Zinnia Cyclamen said...

I learned a few words of the stchuuuuup language in south-east London, years ago. Still speak one now and then. Don't think my pronunciation is very good, though.

Tenerife Scribbler said...

Yea people I meet from all over the Carribean West Africa - they're great teeth suckers.

But it has extended from this niche. In England, tradesmen use it, "stchuuup... it's gonna cost you, mate!" and then it means you Pay Lots. Over here, in Tenerife, we use it in Moroccan bazaars, "stchuuup... nah, €15 for a genuine Praba bag?" - it means you want to Pay Less.

It means high. It means low.

My wife looks at me and uses it.

And then it means: "Start apologising"

Hayden said...

hummm. I was sucking my teeth the entire time I was reading. Experimenting a little. Yep, side mouth suck teeth sound no big problem here. I think cock one eye brow high and suck teeth same side sends a pretty clear message. Also suck front teeth with quick/short front lip lift and a sour look is easy to understand.

this is a world-wide sound, yes?

Daydream Believer said...

We used to suck teeth in Brooklyn, NY, USA too. That and eye rolling, and you didn't want to mess. And if you were really serious, you added a twist of the arm, wrist, and hand. Watch out, now!

PI said...

I'm going to try it instead of sniffing but I'm not very goood at it so far. Sideways suck/sniff!

patita said...

I'm practising this now, and I finally got the right sound. I always did the glare and exhale through the nose before, but this is much more expressive!

kfm said...

hehehe..gyal, ah wha yuh teach dem peeple? ow! nephews dem larn fuh suck teeth..wen tings nah guh hooole day yuh kyan hear wan roaring thru...

Annie said...

Love it. I'd also like to master the Bengali head wiggle that my kids do. I've no idea whether it means yes, no, or "you're talking rubbish, Miss."

DaveM said...

I was practising it too. garage mechanics use it a lot, looking at whats broken Stchuuuuuuuuuu "who did this for you" and as tenerife says, you know its going to cost, and be a long job,

zoe said...

i just tried and a rather loud bubbling sound came out. i think i should practise more.

Modern Viking said...

Thuuuuuup! Shlooooop!
Oh, I just can't do it!

Jdid said...

dat is all you had ta talk bout chupseeeeeeee!!

just kidding
in barbados we duz spell it chupse sometims lol

great post, i've wondered about where it came from too. I've been meaning to do this story for a few years now called 'white people duz chupse too'

Jdid said...

my comment like it dont want to post. chupseeeeee!

great post, I've always liked that form of caribbean expression. THe chupse does speak a million words.

Jdid said...

but wait wha is this comment moderation thing ya have on now


DCveR said...

Ours ends with an open mouth, as if something else is about to be said...

DCveR said...

Ours ends with an open mouth as if something else was about to be said, something else menacing, that is.

Louis-François Pilard said...

Don't be stchupid.

Stunner said...

Stchuuuuuup, please, mi use this everyday to ratid! Only ting in Jamaica wi call it kiss teet.

Good post!

cadiz12 said...

i don't think i'm doing it right. but i'm sure enough people will annoy me that i'll have plenty of practice.

Sunita said...

LOL great post! We does call it "kiss yuh teeth." This is funny stuff gyal I'm bookmarking this page!!

hobbes said...

I always wondered how you spell that..

watersprite said...

Excellent post! Very original. Had to read it twice. Still grinning. My sisters and I still do the "stchuuuup" from the side of the mouth. :D

Good blog.

Kingston Girl said...

When I was a small child, I went to school in scotland for a few months. And being the jamaican pickney that i was, the teacher told me something one day and i sucked my teeth at her - knowing that she wouldn't know what I meant by it. All was good - she just gave me a funny look, until the next parents' evening when she asked my mum and dad about the 'noise' i made. Ooops, that's when it caught up on me!

Guyana-Gyal said...



Kingston Girl, LOL that's like my sis cussing in Guyanese and nobody understands.

Hi Watersprite, welcome and thanks.

You know the sound, Hobbes?

Hey Sunita, welcome, oooh, you sound Caribbean too.

Yes Cadiz, when you can get that sound all right, you will see how much vexation it will release from your system.

KISS TEET. That's it, Stunner, I forgot that one.

Alo M. Pilard. Scccuuupeed is the only way to beee 'appy.

They make that sound in Portugal too, Dcver? Naaah, not like the Windies.

JDid, I had to put on the comments moderation thing cause of weirdos cussing and grannies getting offended stchuuuuuuuuuuuuups. When you doing your post about chups?

Ohhh Viking...

Ohhh's through the teeth, not the lips.

Are your garagemen from the Windies, Davem?

Annie, LOL I hope they're not being rude!

KFM, your niece too! Just 5 years old!

Patita, yes, it says A WHOLE LOT. And do it with attitude too.

Aww PI, I just can't see you being angry :-)

Daydream Believer, now that is the ATTITUDE, man, ah just luuuv it. You should see my sis in action too, haha.

Hayden, international? Not the way we do it, it's really serious communication here.

Tenerife, THANK YOU! So it's West Africa. Hear that Caribbean? It's from West Africa. hahaha, Tenerife, your wife knows, eh?

Zin, careful who you practise on, haha

Hello Chai, welcome! So that's where you're from, St. Kitts. yee haw.

Thanks Alex, I never thought it would be strange, I'm glad it is :-D

Heh heyyy RI, all day yesterday I been saying, "Ein feelin' too good." Man, that post of yours, had my mother laughing.

Quick, this post was for you, LOL. Schuup to the cracked pavement, to Luka's pal, etc hahahaha and when the Aussie cricket team beat us again...stchuuuuuuuuuuuup.

bunnyjo georg said...

I used to work with a guy that had long, leaning, buck teeth and retreating gums who used to suck his teeth habitually. But in his case, I think it was because he was also kinda drooly. ;)

Ale said...

i'm a teeth sucker too!

in italy they suck teeth as as sign of affirmation... go figure...

bunnyjo georg said...

I used to work with this guy who had long, leaning, buck teeth and who habitually sucked his teeth. Day in and day out - schtuuuup, schtuuup schtuuup! Between that and his other bodily excretions, it was like working next to a barnyard. But in his case the teethsucking was less unspoken vocabulary and more related to his drooly problem. ;)

Nneka said...

Que risa me da! man I am grinning and nodding the whole time. I loved it. Was very cool. Mom is from Guyana. The only thing that was missing is that you could get smacked in the mouth for doing that in front of an elder... you know disrespectul and all.

Raheel said...

Can anyone explain this to me?

I am confused!!

Guyana-Gyal said...

Raheel, be cofused no more...'tis the sound that West Indians make with their teeth, a long, VERY long sound, that expresses disgust, anger, amusement.

Hi Nneka, welcome, que risa muy bonita...what a lovely smile. Ah ha, yes, I forgot to mention, little ones got whopped for stchuupsing around the elders :-D

Bunnyjo! His 'his other bodily excretions?!?' Yikes. How do we tell people stuff like 'you have b.o?' and so on?

Ale, it's when you do it with ah-tee-tude, that's the one I'm talking about.

Sunita said...

Yess.. We're Guyanese.. parents from Uitvlugt.

I spell it "MSHEWWW" although nobody agrees with me that that's how u spell it haha..

The intensity of the "kiss teeth" sound depends on how many w's i put... such as

bunnyjo georg said...

Oh, GG, let's just say either he was running over a duck several times a day or that inch-thick homemade bread was taking its toll on his gut. The drooly thing...that was ineptitude, I think. Hey, the rest of us manage to keep it in! :)

Geekette said...

Hi Guyana-Gyal,

Oh yesss, "sucking teeth" it originated in West Africa (probably Nigeria) and it is commonly referred to as "hissing" there. And NO, one would never dare do it in front of one's parents or elders. That would result in a swift smack across the offending mouth at the least.

Also known as (in the 3 major Nigerian languages):
"kposhé" /kpo-shae/ in Yoruba,
"tsaki" /tsa-ki/ in Hausa,
don't know the Igbo equivalent.

At some point (especially during college), it seemed that hissing ability was one of the top miscellaneous traits that westerners tended to find most fascinating about people of African/Carribean descent.

piu piu said...

ha ha ha ha

i wanna see this phenomenon!

Dan Flynn said...


As a poor white boy from Northen Europe I tried stchuuping and my face got stuck. Most of yesterday people were convinced I was angry with them, or that I'd just sucked a lemon. It was all most distressing. Had to visit hospital in the end and needed major tranquilisers to help my facial muscles relax again. I blamed you. Dr's said there'd been an outbreak that day in Manchester of white folk with frozen schtuups and they weren't sure of the source. So I put em right. Hope it doesn't blow up into an international incident. What with Blair's penchant for invading other countries. But then Gyana doesn't have any oil so I think you'll all be safe.

Bugger, I've just tried it again. Ah well, I'll be in touch when I'm back from Accident and Emergency.

Anna, Fair and True said...

In Sweden we also do something similar, and it's especially common in the north of the country where they are known to use their words sparingly and talk in short sentences. So there's sort of a "shoooo", like you inhale and make a noise, instead of saying "yes" or nodding your head in agreement".

Geekette said...

piu piu said... "ha ha ha ha i wanna see this phenomenon!"

Guyana-Gyal, what about a podcast? That'd be a cool idea; a little soundbite to illustrate the action and its variations. E.g. short vs long, the dramatic medium with intermittent bursts, amusement vs vexation, variations by country/region, etc.

Guyana-Gyal said...

Geekette, bless you, bless you, thank you and welcome too. For so long I wanted to know the history of this sound. So it is West Africa! Haha, I can imagine African & Caribbean students in college...

Podcast? Ahhh boy, wish I could, but I'd need all sorts of equipment for that, wouldn't I? Plus the time :-(

Anna, I can't imagine being short in sentences and sparing with words, folks here TALK. A lot.

Ask a Jamaican, Piu...any West Indian, haha, I think you'd like it.

Dan! Wot d'you mean we don't have oil? We got gazillion gallons of oil! Coconut oil! One day we're going to make cars that run on it and we'll be rich.

Oh, be careful with the suck teeth, if you do it wrong folks might think you're blowing kisses...but then again...might be a good thing too :-D

Tashe said...

Miss Guyana, as a writer and a decendant of St. Lucian parents, I am thanking you with every breath for the "CORREK" spelling of that which we all know and love and have gotten a slap for at some time. "Churrrps", "Suck teeth", "chupseeeeeeee",(I heard it jdid), Ri, heard yours too. Hayden? Saw yours! Wonderful. However you hear it... Girl, when YOU wrote it, I heard it, I saw it and I laughed. That is the "correk" spelling of "Stchuuuuuuuuuuuuup". Found you by accident, I'll be stickin' aroung...This was sweet, thanks!

Kate Evans said...

Oh Guyana gyal - I am new to the blogging world, so i don't have a lot to compare it to, but you blow me away... You write so well...I have been fixated with your country for a while now y quiero ir muchisimo... voy a seguir leyendo tu blog... me muestras un mundo muy lejos pero ahora mas cerca...gracias... tried to do the teeth sucking thing in this cafe in Kuching, Borneo, but not sure if a blonde white kiwi girl can really pull it off (they already think i'm weird here with my barefoot ways)... Keep giving me such exquisite glimpses of your life, xxx

PI said...

My dear girl don't bre cross but you have been tagged.

Katy Newton said...

Can't stop, just passing, but I heard all these weird noises coming from your comments box and thought I'd find out what was going on...

Mad Bull said...

In Jamaica, we call it kiss teeth. Same thing though.... same meanings.

Guyana-Gyal said...

MB, has MB Jr. learnt...?

Kate, this sound will let you tell men exactly what you think of them hahaha

PI, I put the link to that tag on your blog, I did it some time ago :-)

Hi Kate, welcome, and thank you. Your blog is just right for me with itchy feet. I can't travel right now, but ohh, I love to read about travels.

Hi Tashe, welcome :-) St. Lucia AND writer! Do you know Derek Walcott? Even a leeetle bit? Have you heard of Calabash, put on by Colin Channer at Jake's Place in Jamaica?

RubixCube said...

I was working in Guyana this passing summer... there are many words, expressions, and habitutes that I brought back to Canada with me. One is sucking my teeth. Yup, nothing beats sucking your teeth when you vexed.

willowtree said...

I used to get in too much trouble with my mother for kissing my teeth, at her- you know that was like a number one crime in those days hehe. Now, what I see the children carrying on with to their parents. Lawks!
Thanks for the memories, I need to start chupsing again.

Cam said...

I think is such a precise way of showing emotion....never mindhow we were raised to think it is a bad thing...Well...I have taught my american husband to stchuuppps teeth...yes taught...for is a certain way de mouth curl and de teeth hold de lip...SMILE.

As usual, you remind us of likke things dat mek we unique west indians.

Spectralis said...

When I was a kid in 60's London we used to suck teeth with a long wet tut. We used to get a good smack for it because adults considered it very rude. I think it's common in a lot of cultures and is a way of showing displeasure without actually speaking words.

Affordable Teeth Whitening said...

you have made my day! I used to get smacked or yelled at for sucking my teeth. I think it should still be considered rude. However its easy on the mouth and like you said you could be saying a millilon different thing with it!

Love it!

Kajsa Hallberg Adu said...

Love the post, especially the manual in the end! I wrote about this sound in Ghana here: