Posted on June 5, 2015

French Schools Ban ‘Teeth Sucking’

Henry Samuel, Telegraph, June 4, 2015

Schools in France are imposing a ban on “teeth-sucking”–a sound made with the mouth common in African and Afro-Caribbean culture–because teachers deem it offensive and disrespectful.

“Le tchip” as the French call it, is a mark of annoyance, disapproval or disdain made by sucking air through the teeth through pursed lips while moving the tongue.

Academics describe it as “velaric ingressive airstream involving closure at two points in the mouth”.

It is often referred to as “teeth-sucking” or “kissing the teeth” in English.

Connoisseurs say the practice follows strict cultural rules, making it acceptable to use with peers or subordinates but never towards an elder or employer.

However, these subtleties are apparently lost on many French pupils, who reportedly increasingly unleash “le tchip” in class and in response to teachers.


“It’s extremely vulgar,” said Eric Bongo, deputy head teacher at the Charles Baudelaire high school in Evry, near Paris. “I grew up in Africa and when I was young it was forbidden to ‘suck-teeth’ at others.

“I explained this to my colleagues and now it is forbidden at the school, just like any insult, because it is an insult.”

He said pupils were taken aback by the surprise ban, but that it was essential to help pupils “get rid of certain cultural codes that are inappropriate in the school and business world”.

{snip}The “tchip” hit the headlines in France in March, when Christiane Taubira, the justice minister, who was born in French Guyana, used it to hit back at a local far-Right Front National candidate who likened her to a monkey.

“There’s something that you do in Creole societies, in Guyana and elsewhere. It’s a very feminine language, and that’s what inspires me. It’s called a ‘tchip’ and it’s pure disdain,” she told iTele, before making the noise.

{snip} However, the ban drew criticism from some quarters. In Slate France, Emeline Amétis and Vincent Manilève said the ban “stigmatised” pupils from ethnic minorities as it was just one of “myriad ways” pupils express disapproval or insolence, including swear words like “putain”, raising an eyebrow or sighing.