I was just talking on the phone to my old boss who was on his way in to my work to fill out paperwork he needs to sort. I asked him, "Would you like me to put the kettle on?", to which he said, "You no longer need to toady to me" (joking of course). I laughed and said, "Sure, you know that I never did".

He's convinced that there is one word to describe this kind of thing. But neither one of us can think of what it is.

Any ideas?

  • 3
    Other than "lying"? What exactly are you looking for here? Aug 23, 2012 at 15:02
  • 5
    Banter? 'This kind of thing' isn't very specific. Aug 23, 2012 at 15:25

5 Answers 5


You might be looking for the word "facetious".

1. not meant to be taken seriously or literally: a facetious remark.
2. amusing; humorous.
3. lacking serious intent; concerned with something nonessential, amusing, or frivolous: a facetious person.

from reference.com


As J.R. says, one could describe OP's offer to put the kettle on as sarcasm, but generally that word has significant negative overtones, so I don't really think it's suitable in this context.

OP is simply indulging in banter - addressing his boss in a witty and teasing manner. He's being waggish, whimsical, wisecracking, etc. - there'll be hundreds of similar words and expressions.

But if someone said to OP (after he put the phone down) "Why did you say you'll put the kettle on? We don't even have a kettle in this office!", I think the most likely response would be...

"I was only joking."

  • +1'd for 'banter'-- I think that's the most appropriate word for this kind of thing (in noun form, at least). 'Teasing' is a good alternative in verb form.
    – Jesse M
    Aug 23, 2012 at 16:54
  • Side note: I agree that sarcasm has some possible negative overtones (and duly noted that in my answer), but, in the context of one admitting, "I was just being sarcastic," I think that negativity is siginficantly diminished. In my part of the U.S., anyway, I'd be more likely to hear one say, "I was only being sarcastic" than something like, "It was only banter." P.S. I think the best part of this answer is "wisecraking, etc. - there'll be hundreds of similar words..."
    – J.R.
    Aug 23, 2012 at 17:07
  • @J.R.: Wisecracking is 100% American (you'd virtually never hear it in the UK). I must admit that until just now, I thought it was hopelessly dated wartime slang, but apparently it's been steadily making a comeback over recent decades Aug 23, 2012 at 17:20
  • 1
    I was more complimenting the 'many similar words' part; it is indeed as you say - there are many ways to say it
    – J.R.
    Aug 23, 2012 at 17:30
  • @J.R.: Yeah - I just chose those three because they all started with the same letter (a feeble attempt to imply there might be at least another three for every other first letter! :) Aug 23, 2012 at 17:35

I would suggest leg-pull - your boss was just pulling your leg while knowing well that there was no kettle.


"A good-humoured hoax, bluff or practical joke" (Chambers)


I would suggest badinage. Compact Oxford English Dictionary defines it as

humorous or witty conversation: he developed a nice line in badinage with the Labour leader

Similarly, Collins

playful or frivolous repartee or banter

And Wordsmyth

playful conversation marked by joking or teasing; banter.

  • I think badinage is a great fit, but it should be noted that many people wouldn't know what that word means. +1 for expanding my vocabulary, though.
    – J.R.
    Aug 24, 2012 at 0:35
  • 1
    @J.R. If many people knowing the meaning of a word were the criterion for our repartee on this site, lots of our words would go down.
    – bib
    Aug 24, 2012 at 11:27
  • I just thought it was worth noting the word's rarity. (I wouldn't want a non-native speaker to read your answer, and start using that word a lot, expecting that most people will know what it means.)
    – J.R.
    Aug 24, 2012 at 13:08
  • 1
    @J.R. I though our goal was the aggrandisement of esoterica, if only to ensure that native speakers, as well as non-native speakers, will hold us in awe.
    – bib
    Aug 24, 2012 at 13:22

Were you two being sarcastic with each other?

Part of Macmillan's definition says that sarcasm is saying or writing the opposite of what you mean.

Sometimes sarcasm can refer to more biting remarks, or more caustic humor. But it can be used in the more lighthearted sense that you mention:

Ned: Were you really going to put a tea kettle on for me?
Ted: No, I was just being sarcastic.

  • I think verbal irony is a better fit than sarcasm. (People do use sarcasm in the way you describe, but I'd consider it wrong or colloquial, like using passive voice in reference to a sentence like "Mistakes occurred".)
    – ruakh
    Aug 23, 2012 at 19:30
  • @ruakh: That's a really good point; I've described a more informal, conversational use of the word. (If people who uttered that phrase consulted a dictionary beforehand, they might scramble to find a better way of saying it, upon realizing that they were about to use a word that's, strictly speaking, so closely aligned with scorn and ridicule.)
    – J.R.
    Aug 23, 2012 at 20:29

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