Kiss My Teeth or Sounds with Meanings in Africa


I had wanted to write about how as a process of me learning Twi I have now gotten to the non-verbal sounds used commonly here in Ghana. One sound in particular is very useful.

But how do I describe a sound on my blog? Recording it and posting a sound clip is out, 'cos I don't master it quite yet - its really difficult!

But then today, there (facebook) it was: In Writing. Now you might understand what I am talking about:
KMT = kiss my teeth aka tsuos aka tweeeeee(sound) aka the sound African people make when they are angry
It seems the sound I was talking about is called "kiss my teeth": although my Ghanaian husband had not heard that name, but "tsuos" or "tweee" sounds about right. But I think "angry" doesn't really cover it - its more close to extreme disappointment, grave nonsense and deep mistrust. Effectively used, it can even be a potent insult.

Often used about a (useless) person:
- As for that thief, *tsuos*

Or to correct a child:
- Did I not tell you to stop doing that five times already? Hm, *tweeeeee*

Or to stress an (upsetting) occurrence, as the Facebooker in question describes:
- they dont give plastic bags in that shop, nonsense i forced her to give it to me KMT

In the pic, my young friend is attempting the sound. - What? I have to stop playing with my toys and go shower? KMT!

According to comments on this post this is not an African sound per se, but also common in the West Indies, South America etc. I was also informed that Guyana Gyal posted on the same topic years ago here, she also added a useful manual on how to 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.


Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

good to see you have really done well...this sound if used at an elderly person can lead to serious whips and slaps that one cannot forget. Used consistently the user is described as a disrespectful person.

Anonymous said...

OMG! I love this friggin post! I am Ghanaian and I know exactly what you are talking about although my friends and I type it as Mcheeeww or mtseewww. He he.

But the sound isnt something just Africans do, my Guyanese friend does it tooo. So there you have it.

Kajsa Hallberg Adu said...

Thanks Nana and Anon for adding to the knowledgebase on sounds with meanings! Now all I have to do is practise more ( but not too much, Nana, I promise :-))

Maya Mame said...

Don't know about Ghana, but "kiss my teeth" is the most commonly used phrase in the UK. Also, it's not just us Africans who use it, the West Indians and black Americans are pretty darn good at kissing teeth too. Funny post!

KOB said...

some caribbean people also call it a twups

Kwegyirba Aggrey-Orleans said...

Like this post. I remember when I was younger, that sound was banned at home because my mum said it was uncouth. Somehow I still know how to do it, though I avoid it. Not that it hasn't 'slipped' out on occasion to my utter embarrassment!

Anonymous said...

i concur that it is difficult to translate that sound into words.. thus when i am typing i write "mstchew". as for such as "kai", "heh", "nonsense" which are used typically in Ghanaian speech, i find myself typing them. I guess i'm too Ghanaian

Edward: said...

Girls are better at that sound, trust me!!

Denise said...

Hey nice post Kajsa. In Jamaica we do it a lot as well - the length of time you do it for and facial expressions that accompany it will indicate the extent of your annoyance! In Jamaica we will usually roll (or cut our eyes) while doing it as well.

Anonymous said...

Guyana: Suck Teeth - a blog on same topic

Anonymous said...

It was very interesting for me to read the article. Thank author for it. I like such themes and everything that is connected to this matter. I definitely want to read a bit more on that blog soon.

MISTY said...

haha this is so interesting, i think cause us caribbean ppl descend from Africa whe still have some of the customs. in jamaica here we "kiss teeth" ot hiss teeth when we are annoyed with some one or somethin when frustrated and also when upset. we might even say

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