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French schools move to ban 'teeth-sucking'

Ben McPartland · 3 Jun 2015, 16:55

Published: 03 Jun 2015 16:55 GMT+02:00

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The word “le tchip” has been all over the French press this week, because its been drawing the ire of headteachers.

“Le tchip” is a sound made by sucking air through the teeth from behind pursed lips – hence the reason that its often referred to as “teeth-sucking” or “kissing the teeth” in English.

It is common in African and Afro-Caribbean culture and is used mainly to show irritation, disapproval or disdain. (see video below)

But it seems that many youngsters in France have grown accustomed to using it perhaps not quite knowing the nuances behind the sound. 

There are several cultural rules around “sucking-teeth” however, with one French journalist of African heritage telling the TV channel Arte that she would do it between “peers or juniors” but never to and elder or an employer.

Certain schools around the country are now joining in a crackdown on the act, Le Parisien newspaper reported.

“It’s extremely vulgar,” said Eric Bongo deputy headteacher at a high school in Evry, near Paris. “I grew up in Africa and when I was young it was forbidden to “suck-teeth” (tchiper) at others.

“I explained this to my colleagues and now it is forbidden at the school, just like any insult, because it is rude,” he added, although the deputy headteacher admitted that the pupils had been taken by surprise by the ban.

But the teacher explained that the disciplinary measure was necessary to show children they needed to shred several cultural codes that are inappropriate for school and the professional world.

According to reports in the French press there are more cases of pupils being thrown out of classes for sucking-teeth.

Story continues below…

The “tchip” made headline news in France back in March, when Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, born in Guyana, used it to hit back at her detractors in an interview.

This video, which is in French, explains everything you need to know about "teeth sucking" or "Le Tchip".


Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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