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I wonder if 'play cute' or 'play adorable' is frequently used to stand for 'act cute/adorable' in spoken language. It seems easier to google out 'act cute/adorable' instead of 'play cute/adorable'.

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I only know 50s movies where the cop says "Don't play cute with me!" to the uncooperative gangster being questioned. I can't believe anyone still says that (if indeed they ever did, outside of movie scripts). Presumably OP means something different, but I don't know what it is. We need more context, please. – FumbleFingers Oct 18 '11 at 2:08
We're all human beings, so I expect similar situations happen to all of us. But please can you explain what these expressions mean to you? – FumbleFingers Oct 18 '11 at 2:53
I am not sure if the following situation would happen in western cultures or not. But in the East, a girl would try or pretend to act cute or adorable when she is with someone on whom she – simplebeing Oct 18 '11 at 3:04
Okay, well like I say, I don't think play cute has been much used for decades, and I doubt play/act adorable ever has or will be. Also I don't think there will necessarily be any standard expressions (slang or otherwise) that simultaneously cover both a girl acting coy to enhance her sexual attractiveness, and a kindergarten teacher using a childish voice (btw - toddlers in kindergarten aren't called students). – FumbleFingers Oct 18 '11 at 3:27
I think @FumbleFingers is right, you're going to need two different words for those situations. The first is flirtatious, but if you described a kindergarten teacher as such, you'd raise some eyebrows. (Though I feel like this wasn't always the case - any thoughts? Was there a time when an adult could have been described as "flirting" with a baby, e.g.?) – onomatomaniak Oct 18 '11 at 5:38
up vote 0 down vote accepted

These have different shades of meaning. One who "plays cute" is intentionally giving that impression, while one who "acts cute" may be doing it intentionally but may not.

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Does that mean these expressions are understandable by native English speakers if used by a non-native speakers, even though they may be old-fashioned or mean subtly differently? – simplebeing Oct 19 '11 at 1:03
Yes. But on the other hand, it might not have quite the meaning you intend (depending on what, precisely, you intend). – Charles Oct 19 '11 at 13:21
I think this distinction is spurious. – FumbleFingers Jun 11 '12 at 2:05

I was always under the impression that "don't play cute" means "don't pretend to be innocent"/"I know you're being dishonest".

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Actually, it could be related to one of the original meanings of cute which was “clever”, or, more appropriate, “shrewd”. – theUg Feb 11 '13 at 8:49

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