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When you are playfully teasing someone you describe your sentence as tongue-in-cheek.

What is the German equivalent of this?

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  • Ask a translator ;-) Oct 31, 2023 at 22:00
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    There's a common misconception here that translation requests are off-topic. They're very much on-topic (of course), but you should explain why a dictionary didn't help you. Also providing further context like a full sentence would help us giving you a better answer. Oct 31, 2023 at 22:04

2 Answers 2

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Tounge-in-cheek is typically translated as "augenzwinkernd" or "mit einem Augenzwinkern" (literally, "with a wink of the eye").

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Language is not only a heap of words and rules to combine them, language is also a way of thinking: words and phrases convey concepts and as the underlying cultural conventions differ so do the words expressing them.

For instance, there is a common prank in Japan (mostly performed among school children) and other asian countries where one clasps the hands together, stretching out the index fingers like the barrel of an imaginary gun and tries to poke the unsuspecting victims anus with it, often exclaiming "Kan-CHO!". This is called "Kanchō" and there are South Korean ("dong chim"), Philippine ("Tumbong") and Chinese ("qiānnián shā") words for the practice, but there is no German word for it. "Kanchō" means "Einlauf" (enema) but that wouldn't convey the prank and what it entails. This is not because we wouldn't be able to describe that, but because the whole customs is not known here and hence there is no word for it.

German and English are much closer related - not only because the common history, but also because the societies are much more similar. Still, there are some differences and this is one of them.

There is no direct translation for what "tongue-in-cheek" describes. One could use "sarkastisch" (sarcastic[ally]) or "ironisch" or "ironisierend" (ironic[ally]), but that won't really convey what "tongue-in-cheek" stands for. There is a reason why English has "sarcastic" and "ironic" and still developed a separate phrase - if it would mean exactly the same there would have been no use for that. There is in German also a phrase "galliger Humor", which could be used for the example from the english Wikipedia, but it lacks the light-hearted quality "tongue-in-cheek" would include. The Verben and phrases "aufziehen", "sich lustig machen über", come closer, but are a different word class.

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