Written by Azizi Powell
People don't always have to say what they're thinking. Sometimes body gestures and sounds such as "kiss teeth" say what they want to say and more.
I'm an African American woman from New Jersey & Pennsylvania. Although my maternal grandparents are from the islands (Barbados and Trinidad), I wasn't familiar with the phrase "kiss teeth" until I started reading about it on the Internet. But ever since I was a child I knew about "sucking your teeth". That phrase is often expressed in the warning "Don't suck your teeth at me!"
The phrase "suck your teeth" is documented as early as 1915 in Jamaica and is also found in Barbados, Belize, and Guyana, Trinidad, and the United States (particularly among African Americans). In Tobago, kiss teeth is called "hiss teeth" and in the Cayman Islands it is called "sucking your mouth". Source: The Meaning Of Kiss Teeth
"Kiss" and "hiss" are onomatopoeic “[that’s the sound you make when doing it].
In the Caribbean kiss teeth is represented by the initials "KST" (kiss teeth) and "KMT" (kiss my teeth). Among people from the Caribbean, kiss teeth can be represented in writing using the words "Cho!", "Chups", "Tchuipe, "Chupes", "Stchuup”, and similarly spelled words. These words are both nouns and verbs.
Here's a very short video of kiss teeth:
Uploaded by kelvin12600 on Jul 15, 2011
Notice the neck roll and cut eye (rolling eye) movement that accompany kiss teeth.
Researchers have documented KST in West Africa, as well as in the Caribbean, and in certain South American nations which have significant populations of people of African descent. Of course, KST is also found in other nations such as the United Kingdom where there are Caribbean, African American, and African residents.
KST can convey a wide range of emotions including (in no particular order) disgust, disdain, defiance, exasperation, annoyance, displeasure, disrespect, scorn, insult, sorrow, impatience, disagreement, disapproval, dislike, and vexation.
Here's a quote about "chupse" (kiss teeth) that is included in this previously mentioned pdf
The Meaning Of Kiss Teeth
Esther Figueroa (USA) Peter L Patrick (UK)
The chupse is not a word, it is a whole language. There is the small effortless chupse of indifference; the thin hard chupse of disdain; the long, liquid, vibrating chupse that shakes the rafters and expresses every kind of defiance. It is the universal language of the West Indies, the passport to confidence from Jamaica to British South America. How dare the compiler downgrade it to a mere word!(from the “Barbados Advocate”, quoted in Collymore, 1970)
Here's a review of the book "Cut-Eye" and "Suck-Teeth":African Words and Gestures in New World Guise by John R. Rickford and Angela E. Rickford:
An investigation questioned whether the words and gestures "cut-eye" and "suck-teeth," evident in Guyana, represent African survivals, and how widely these are recognized in the Caribbean, the United States and Africa. Caribbean data were drawn from observations, dictionaries and interviews. U.S. data came from questionnaires administered to both blacks and whites. African students were also questioned. In Guyana, "cut-eye" is a visual gesture indicating hostility or disapproval. A glare is delivered followed by a vertical or diagonal sweep of the eye over the other person. "Cut-eye" insults by visually invading another's territory and turning away contemptuously. The gesture was familiar to all West Indians interviewed. In the U.S., nearly all black informants were familiar with the term, but few of the whites. All African informants recognized the gesture. "Suck-teeth" refers to the gesture of drawing in air through the teeth to produce a sucking sound. It expresses anger, exasperation or annoyance, and is stronger and ruder than "cut-eye." It is known throughout the Caribbean, by black Americans, though not by whites, and by Africans. The study provides evidence that Africanisms persist in the New World even in commonplace expressions and gestures. (CHK)
Here are some responses to a 2007 Yahoo answers question: Why do some black people "suck their teeth"
Hi, I'm Jamaican. In Jamaica we call it "Kiss teet" (kiss teeth).
We do it to show our disapproval, disagreement and/or anoyance.
If someone p*sses you off you do it, if someone says something stupid you do it, if you see someone you don't like you do it.
It means "Whatever man, I don't care what you think, you're talking crap, talk all you like I'm not listening" It's showing your disapproval.
:-) We incorporate this into our internet lingo. The internet slang for this is KMT (which means: kiss my teeth).
It's actually coined "smacking the lips." And I do it when someone is saying something stupid, being fake, if I don't think someone is being honest, when i'm calling someone's bluff, brushing someone off etc.
Hope that helped.
Cesaria Barbarossa - 40K
Its not just the black people that suck their teeth its allot of teenagers do it two and Its sorta like an irritated way of saying its stupid,waste of tI'me, and im not doing it kinda thing
It's just an expression to show that what has been said is a load of crap, like when I read your question I skinned teeth big time.
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