I was thinking something like "tongue-in-cheekly" but it sounds awkward. Of course, alternatives are welcome, but I couldn't come up with one that conveyed the half-serious playfulness that I attribute to "tongue-in-cheek". Any thoughts?

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    Tongue-in-cheek can itself be used adverbially. It was said tongue-in-cheek or He spoke tongue-in-cheek are both commonly heard. – user13141 Jan 12 '12 at 22:33
  • That comment should have set the matter at rest. – Kris Jan 13 '12 at 5:51

(Edit: I reworked my answer, since Merriam-Webster was inconsistent between the free and unabridged versions.)

Per OxfordDictionaries.com, the adverb and adjective form of the phrase "tongue in cheek" is tongue-in-cheek (with hyphens):

[as adjective]: her delightful tongue-in-cheek humour

[as adverb]: I think he was talking tongue-in-cheek.

  • The real question is: Should it be tongue-in-cheekly, or should it be tonguely-in-cheek? – John Lawler Jan 12 '12 at 23:19
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    @JohnLawler Tongue-in-cheekily makes sense to me. – Gnawme Jan 12 '12 at 23:26
  • Thanks! I had the vague impression that it could be used directly as an adverb, as I've probably seen it used like that before, but was unsure; it could have been just my faulty memory at work :) – waldyrious Jan 13 '12 at 0:39
  • You're welcome. I was amazed at how inconsistent the various online dictionaries were with this phrase. Some didn't even list the adverb... – Gnawme Jan 13 '12 at 0:54

I'd say tichily, though this does rather depend on people being familiar with tichy as an "acronym" for tongue-in-cheek.

  • But tichy sounds too much like tetchy to me, and someone who thought that you told them that they had said something tetchily might disagree. – Gnawme Jan 12 '12 at 23:40
  • @Gnawme: That's probably because you're not already familiar with the term. To be fair, it's not really in the general vernacular. But it's particularly prevalent among British crossword fans (myself being one), because it's a very suitable term for describing certain types of cryptic clues. – FumbleFingers Jan 12 '12 at 23:50
  • Ah, one of those maddeningly vague crossword puzzle clue terms... – Gnawme Jan 12 '12 at 23:54
  • I'd hardly say it was "vague". By the very nature of their pastime, UK cryptic crossword solvers tend to be very analytical and precise. I personally use the word in other contexts, but only with people I expect already know it (and even then, I doubt I've ever had occasion to inflect it into tichily). I think I've probably used it once or twice here on ELU, but in such contexts I'd always include the full form in brackets afterwards. – FumbleFingers Jan 13 '12 at 0:02
  • I meant vague in their use. I can't think of some of the vaguer examples offhand (my wife is the crossword and sudoku solver in the house), but a clue in a US crossword might be phrased, "Tokyo, once." (Which of course would probably seem precise and logical to a crossword puzzle fan.) – Gnawme Jan 13 '12 at 0:09

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