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I'm trying to find a word or phrase for a particular type of reaction similar to a laugh. The reaction is hard for me to describe, but an example of it can be found in this video. The reaction is actually before the list begins, around the 0:08 second mark.

The reaction I'm after is sharper and quicker than the one in the video: a short, semi-sharp breath out through the nose, usually accompanied by a very slight nod of the head. It's not a true laugh, but does show amusement/appreciation.

"They're not that bad. Once you get over their endless search for assassination plots, they're a good group to hang out with."

Dave grinned. "You have my condolences," he said, ____-ing. (meant to show light sarcasm)

Most of the synonyms for laughter suggest loud or prolonged sounds, neither of which fits the reaction I want. One word which comes close is snort, but that suggests something a lot louder and less controlled than I want. The closest I have come to a description is:

He suppressed a laugh.

Still not quite what I want, since the character isn't really suppressing anything.

What is a good word/phrase for this reaction? I'm after a word to describe the reaction to something which is only mildly funny or perhaps sarcastic, and does not induce full laughter.

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    I'd be willing to classify the reaction in that video as a snicker, or perhaps a chuckle. Also you could get around your writing issue by using grin as Dave's speaking action and giving him a different reaction: "Dave raised an eyebrow. 'You have my condolences,' he grinned." (or 'he said, grinning', or 'he said, with a grin.') – Hellion Sep 14 '18 at 16:31
  • Immediately the word "snort" came to mind, as @wendyG said below. Also, the word "sniff" as in "he sniffed in disdain at the joke's weak punchline". – Ryan Griggs Sep 14 '18 at 19:35
  • @Hellion Snicker has unique connotations, usually implying snickering at someone (usually behind their back). Chuckle implies something much longer than I want. This is a short reaction. The grin advice is a good patch for the problem though, if there's no other way to describe the reaction. – Thomas Myron Sep 14 '18 at 19:59
  • 'Smirk' is the closest I can think of, though it doesn't necessarily include exhaling through the nose. – S Conroy Sep 14 '18 at 23:48
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I first thought of snorting

snort

NOUN

1 An explosive sound made by the sudden forcing of breath through one's nose, used to express indignation, derision, or incredulity.

‘he gave a snort of disgust’ https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/snort

I know this doesn't look good on paper but you can also snort with laughter

to make an explosive sound by forcing air quickly up or down the nose:

He did an impression of a horse snorting.

Camille snorts when she laughs.

informal By this time I was snorting with laughter (= laughing a lot and loudly).

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/snort

  • But I specifically said that snort would not work in the question. – Thomas Myron Sep 14 '18 at 19:56
  • Fair point, well made – WendyG Sep 16 '18 at 22:08
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A chuckle or smirk might be what you are after.

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a chortle TFD

A snorting, joyful laugh or chuckle.

As in:

You have my condolences," he said, chortling.

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