Tongue-in-cheek

Tongue-in-cheek is a term used to refer to humor in which a statement, or an entire fictional work, is not meant to be taken seriously, but its lack of seriousness is subtle. The origin of its usage comes from when Spanish minstrels would perform for various dukes in the 18th century; these dukes would silently chastise the silliness of the minstrel's performances by placing their tongue firmly to the side of their cheek. The "Oxford English Dictionary" defines it as "Ironic, slyly humorous; not meant to be taken seriously".

History

Tongue-in-cheek fiction seems to abide by the conventions of an established serious genre, but gently pokes fun at some aspects of that genre, while still relying on its conventions. Examples of tongue-in-cheek films are "A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy", "Shaun of the Dead", "Demolition Man", "True Lies" or "Hot Fuzz". Note that these films are still faithful to their genre (musical, zombie, action, spy, and police-thriller respectively) and are much more subtle than out-and-out parodies such as "Airplane!" or "Scary Movie".

The "Oxford English Dictionary"'s earliest recorded use of the term was in a 1933 when a "Times Literary Supplement" review described "Shooting the Bull" as "a tongue-in-the-cheek march through newspaperdom." It appeared in "Webster's Dictionary" the following year.

One of the earliest records of the expression is in "The Fair Maid of Perth", by Sir Walter Scott in 1828

"The fellow who gave this all-hail thrust his tongue in his cheek to some scapegraces like himself."

Its use was recorded again in 1845 by Richard Harris Barham, the English novelist and poet in "The Ingoldsby Legends": "He fell to admiring his friend's English watch."
"He examined the face,"
"And the back of the case,"
"And the young Lady's portrait there, done on enamel, he"
"Saw by the likeness was one of the family;"
"Cried 'Superbe! Magnifique! (With his tongue in his cheek)"
"Then he open'd the case, just to take a peep in it, and"
"Seized the occasion to pop back the minute hand."

References

cite book
author = Mary Morris
title = Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins
publisher = HarperCollins
year = 1988
id = ISBN 0-06-015862-X

cite book
title = The Ingoldsby Legends or Mirth and Marvels
author = The Rev. Richard H. Barham
year = 1921
publisher = Oxford University Press


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • tongue-in-cheek — adj a tongue in cheek remark is said as a joke, not seriously ▪ I love that kind of tongue in cheek wit. >tongue in cheek adv ▪ I think he was talking tongue in cheek …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • tongue-in-cheek — {adj. phr.} In an ironic or insincere manner. * /When the faculty complained about the poor salary increments, the university s president said that he was not a psychiatrist, thus making an inappropriate tongue in cheek remark./ …   Dictionary of American idioms

  • tongue-in-cheek — {adj. phr.} In an ironic or insincere manner. * /When the faculty complained about the poor salary increments, the university s president said that he was not a psychiatrist, thus making an inappropriate tongue in cheek remark./ …   Dictionary of American idioms

  • tongue-in-cheek — [tuŋ′ n chēk′] adj. humorously ironic, mocking, or insincere [a tongue in cheek series of commercials for deodorant] * * * tongue in cheek (tŭng ĭn chēkʹ) adj. Meant or expressed ironically or facetiously. * * * …   Universalium

  • tongue-in-cheek — adjective intended to be humorous and not meant seriously: a tongue in cheek answer ╾ ,tongue in cheek adverb …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • tongue-in-cheek — if you say something tongue in cheek, what you have said is a joke, although it might seem to be serious. She writes a very engaging and at times tongue in cheek account of her first meeting with the royal family …   New idioms dictionary

  • tongue-in-cheek — (adj.) 1933, from phrase to speak with one s tongue in one s cheek to speak insincerely (1748), which somehow must have been suggestive of sly irony or humorous insincerity, but the exact notion is obscure …   Etymology dictionary

  • tongue in cheek — If something is tongue in cheek, it isn t serious or meant to be taken seriously …   The small dictionary of idiomes

  • tongue-in-cheek — [tuŋ′ n chēk′] adj. humorously ironic, mocking, or insincere [a tongue in cheek series of commercials for deodorant] …   English World dictionary

  • tongue-in-cheek — [adj] facetious amusing, blithe, clever, comic, comical, dry, farcical, flip*, flippant, funny, humorous, in fun, in jest, ironic, ironical, irreverent, jesting, jocular, joking, joshing, laughable, not serious, playful, pulling one’s leg*,… …   New thesaurus


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