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Tongue in Cheek

Posted by Paul Guthrie on October 17, 1999

In Reply to: Tongue in Cheek posted by Renee Pouvreau on September 23, 1999

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

I believe that the origin derives from the method of suppressing or disguising a smile by pushing against the inside of one's mouth or cheek.
I can actually remember doing this as a child for that exact purpose.
Does anyone else remember doing the same?
Normally a smile is an immediate giveaway when trying to kid someone.
So to be an effective 'kidder' it is necessary to disguise any smile.
Since a smile is a spontaneous reaction to thinking something funny, it can only be disguised by physically deforming the expression in some manner.
Pushing the tongue against the cheek seems to be a commonly discovered solution.
Of course once it is known then the tongue in cheek beomes a giveaway without seeing the smile, and in fact can even be given as an extra signal to someone who may be a bit slow to get it.