tongue in cheek

Tongue-in-cheek celebrity, pic: mychinaconnection.com

“Tongue in cheek” or tongue-in-cheek (there are rules about such things as when to use the hyphenated form but I find them rather unintuitive) is a useful little phrase or figure of speech to express that something you just said, a statement you just made is meant ironically and can’t be taken at face value and should certainly not be taken seriously.  It

The expression – obviously – refers to a facial expression – sticking one’s tongue into ones cheek – which IMHO creates a bit of a goofy facial expression and might have originated with people trying to suppress a laugh.

The origin of this phrase is one of these convoluted ones that spans several centuries and continents and so I spare you (and myself) the details.

Instead here is an example:

“I was surprised by Professor Miller’s talk.  I always though he was a very serious, humorless guy but many of his remarks were quite tongue in cheek.”

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