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Tongue in Cheek

Posted by ESC on September 26, 1999

In Reply to: Tongue in Cheek posted by Bruce Kahl on September 25, 1999

: : What is the origin of the phrase "tongue in cheek"?

: I always thought it came from the practice of biting your tongue causing pain in an effort to
: suppress laughter or a smile. If you bite your tongue with your side teeth you
: have put your tongue in your cheek.

"tongue in cheek is a truly odd expression, if you give it a bit of thought. Obviously, you can't say anything if you have your tongue lodged in your cheek. Perhaps the original idea was that, after saying something, you pushed out one cheek with your tongue as a gesture to indicate that you didn't really mean what you just said, like a wink to show 'I hope you realize I'm just kidding.' It first appeared in print in a book published in 1845 called 'The Ingoldsby Legends,' in which the author, Richard Barham, reports a Frenchman as saying 'Superbe! Magnifique!' (with his tongue in his cheek). " From Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollinsPublishers).

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