An example of something that would be described as tongue-in-cheek is a sarcastic joke that pokes fun at someone in a lighthearted way.
(comparative more tongue-in-cheek, superlative most tongue-in-cheek)
This phrase clearly alludes to the facial expression created by putting one's tongue in one's cheek. This induces a wink (go on - try it), which has long been an indication that what is being said is to be taken with a pinch of salt. It may have been used to suppress laughter. 'Tongue in cheek' is the antithesis of the later phrase - 'with a straight face'.
The term first appeared in print in 'The Fair Maid of Perth', by that inveterate coiner of phrases, Sir Walter Scott, 1828:
"The fellow who gave this all-hail thrust his tongue in his cheek to some scapegraces like himself."
It isn't entirely clear that Scott was referring to the ironic use of the expression. A later citation from Richard Barham's The Ingoldsby Legends, 1845 is unambiguous though:
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.
- A tongue-in-cheek take on Easter, this is for the guy who's not too serious and even likes his bunny to sport some bling (the Easter Bunny on these shorts wears a shiny chain and egg pendant around his neck).
- Whether trying to be actually helpful, such as Lena Madrona of LoveSickFools.com, or tongue-in-cheek like Tom Philip of CollegeHumor.com, the stages of breaking up tend to follow a pattern.
- Usually bright-colored and tongue-in-cheek, these cards are perfect for an exciting, passionate couple that loves trying new things and can be expected to have a non-traditional or outrageous wedding.
- While this name is fading in popularity as more women choose to tattoo this highly versatile canvas, placing a pair of angel wings in this area allows some tongue-in-cheek humor to be achieved.
- When reading great cheerleading quotes, remember that the silly tongue-in-cheek wordplay functions as a cheerleading accessory, worn on top of sheer athleticism and heart.