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Re: "keep tougue firmly planted in cheek"

Posted by Smokey Stover on July 03, 2006

In Reply to: "Keep tougue firmly planted in cheek" posted by Fang Yingying on July 03, 2006

: "keep tougue firmly planted in cheek"
: what this phrase most probably could mean,and in which condition we also use it? Thank U!

I hope that's a typo, tougue for tongue.
The injunction to "keep tongue firmly planted in cheek" refers to the expression "tongue-in-cheek."
Tongue-in-cheek humor has been well known in English for at least a couple of centuries, but there's some disagreement as to why the tongue is in the cheek. Let me give you a few comments that I found.
From the Oxford English Dictionary: "A. adj. Ironic, slyly humorous; not meant to be taken seriously. Also tongue-in-the-cheek.
1933 Times Lit. Suppl. 30 Mar. 223/4 Shooting the Bull..is a tongue-in-the-cheek march through newspaperdom...1953 Spectator 13 Mar. 320/2 This..novel..seems too facile, too tongue-in-cheek. 1959 Times 4 Sept. 5/1 Though the piece was energetic and often exuberant it was certainly not tongue-in-the-cheek or humorous in style. 1976 National Observer (U.S.) 27 Mar. 10/1, I enjoyed Wesley Pruden's tongue-in-cheek suggestion..that every man, woman, and child in the United States be given a college degree so they 'become equal'...
B. adv. = with tongue in cheek s.v. TONGUE n. 4d.
1934 in WEBSTER. 1976 Listener 18 Mar. 334/3 Someone told Muhammad Ali, tongue-in-cheek, that his book made him come over as a 'deep thinker'. 1979 H. MCLEAVE Borderline Case xi. 113 'You mean you're a spy.' 'Only for those people who have something sinister to hide,' he said, tongue-in-cheek."

Some sources place the first printed use of the expression somewhat earlier. From Kidshealth.org, "This funny-sounding expression indicates that someone just told a joke or isn't being serious! If someone says something "tongue-in-cheek," he or she is usually kidding.

It's believed that this saying was created by an English humorist in the 1800s. Most people have difficulty saying anything with their tongue in their cheek. But some people actually do stick their tongue against the inside of their cheek after saying a joke to show that they're only kidding."

Origin of the term

The term first appeared in print in the book The Ingoldsby Legends by Richard Harris Barham, published in 1845. The author uses the term describing a Frenchman...[a not very funny poem follows]...
Tongue-in-cheek humour in fiction often takes the form of gentle parodies. Such stories seem to abide by the conventions of an established serious genre, while in reality, they gently poke fun at some aspects of that genre. A tongue-in-cheek work still relies on these conventions and is not the same as a farce. Good examples of films that are made in a tongue-in-cheek way are An American Werewolf in London, Scream, or True Lies. Note that these films are still faithful to their genre (horror and spy, respectively) and are not out-and-out parodies such as Airplane!."
An obvious question is: "Why put your tongue in your cheek?"

THe Kidshealth answer is that it shows the other person, the one to whom you have made a tongue-in-cheek remark, that you were only kidding. How would it show that unless there was a long-standing convention based on someone arbitrarily sticking their tongue in their cheek? How could such a convention come about? I believe the custom arose from someone trying to keep a straight face, after telling an obvious taradiddle, by pressing his cheek with his tongue. Perhaps the gesture was so obvious that it was recognized as such and came to be a deliberate cue that "I'm not being serious."
SS

The phrase "keeping a straight face" is another idiom which means not smiling after telling a joke, or a lie, or anything that you don't wish to be recognized for what it is because of your facial expression.