You understood perfectly what the other person said but preferred to act as if you hadn't. For any reason: it may be that any reply would be embarrassing, it might start an argument, or would make you franker than you wished. In a nutshell, it would make you talk about things you preferred not to.

example: a malicious comment such as "Why don't you dye your hair blonde? I'm sure your husband will love it." when you found your husband is having an affair with his blond colleague.

The idiom or phrase should fit here: I think she understood perfectly well what I meant. She just ____________.

Edit: for clarity. I'm not looking for "turn a deaf ear". An innuendo is usually subtle and in this question the listener pretends to have missed its real meaning.

  • 5
    There is "play dumb" but it is not only for innuendos.
    – ermanen
    Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 2:30
  • The person saying the innuendo pretends the remark is innocent, but the listener can either deliberately ignore or be oblivious to its hidden meaning. Who is pretending in your question, the speaker or the listener?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 4:11
  • @ernamen Although not specific for innuendos, I believe "play dumb" fits perfectly.
    – Centaurus
    Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 16:01
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA The person saying an innuendo often pretends the remark is innocent. In my question the listener pretends not to understand it. I've edited to make it clearer. :-)
    – Centaurus
    Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 16:07
  • 1
    I think you would just 'let it pass'.
    – Muskworker
    Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 19:37

6 Answers 6


She was just being coy about her love life, deciding to play dumb and beat around the bush until you changed the subject. Your response could have been 'don't be coy; answer the question'.

coy (koi) adjective

TFD: 2. Unwilling to make a commitment or divulge information:
"As a child, when I asked my mother her age she was coy and evasive" (Lynne Sharon Schwartz).

Google: reluctant to give details, especially about something regarded as sensitive.

“Pretending not to understand an innuendo” could be rewritten as: unwilling to divulge information of a sensitive nature.

beat around the bush –etymology, SE

to avoid answering a question; to stall; to waste time. -TFD

Bending the ear of a third party, you could snarkily say, "I think she's ignoring me." In your sentence, "She just ignored it."

  • I prefer the phrase you wrote but didn't highlight: play dumb
    – Wolfie Inu
    Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 6:04

One can feign naïveté or feign innocence. Personally, I'd go for naïveté because it implies that you pretended to not understand what was being implied at all.


To play innocent carries the connotation of pretending not to know or not to understand:

  • to pretend to be innocent and not concerned. John is playing innocent, and he knows more than he is telling us. (McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms )

also: She just acted as if nothing had happened!


I would try disingenuous.


This dictionary defines it as "Not candid or sincere, typically by pretending that one knows less about something than one really does."

  • This is certainly the first word that popped into my head, although it doesn't speak directly to the specific query posed by Centaurus. +1 all the same. Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 16:06

She just burried her head in the sand

  • "bury your head in the sand" is to refuse to think about an unpleasant situation, hoping that it will improve so that you will not have to deal with it.

This comes from the supposed habit of ostriches hiding when faced with attack by predators. The story was first recorded by the Roman writer Pliny the Elder, who suggested that ostriches hide their heads in bushes. Ostriches don't hide, either in bushes or sand, although they do sometimes lie on the ground to make themselves inconspicuous. The 'burying their head in the sand' myth is likely to have originated from people observing them lowering their heads when feeding.

The story also relies on the supposed stupidity of ostriches, and of birds in general. In fact, there's little to support that either as birds have a significantly larger brain to weight ratio than many other species of animal. The notion is that the supposedly dumb ostrich believes that if it can't see its attacker then the attacker can't see it. This was nicely reformed as a joke on Douglas Adams' 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy', in which the 'Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal' was described as 'so mind-bogglingly stupid that it assumes that if you can't see it, then it can't see you.'

From The phrase finder web site


It's a phrase: To play possum Ex:- You're playing possum with me. Aren't you?

  • Playing Possum is to pretend to be dead, not to ignore someone.
    – Chenmunka
    Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 20:53
  • Not necessarily. Playing Possum can also mean:to dissemble or pretend ignorance
    – Michael J.
    Commented Aug 12, 2015 at 17:18

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