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I came across a sentence in a comment in Stack Exchange Workplace which I can not translate:

have been freelance for *cough* decades

Can anyone help me?

Here is the link to original post - see comment from @Mawg

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    That phrase basically means that the poster has been freelance for a long time, and he's not willing to admit just how long. – Jeff Zeitlin Jun 14 at 14:39
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The asterisk delimiters are an internet/chat text convention for an action on the part of the writer, so read it as a stage note: the author wants you to think he/she is coughing.

The meaning here is to communicate that the word "decades" is, "ahem", ironic.

Without further context I don't know if the irony intention is "many, perhaps uncountable decades" or "barely, round up to a decade" but I feel the meaning is one or the other.

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