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French word of the day: Taquiner

French word of the day: Taquiner
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
If you find your sense of humour lost in translation, this expression could be a life-saver.

Why do I need to know taquiner?

If you're a foreigner in France who enjoy telling jokes, you might have noticed that French people react slightly differently to what the Brits call 'banter'.

Here's the correct French way to casually disarm after being funny on someone's expense.

What does it mean?

Taquiner is French for ‘playing with’ someone, but in a harmless way.

Directly translated to ‘tease', it might be the nicest way of pulling someone's leg in French. 

Taquiner is light, playful and should never ruin anyone's day.

Il n'a pas dit ca méchamment, cétait pour te taquiner! – He didn't mean to be mean, he was just messing with you!

Arrête de taquiner ta soeur, Paul – ‘Stop teasing your sister, Paul’ 

T'inquietè, on taquinait. – Don't worry, we were just kidding.

Synonyms

Je te taquine – ‘I am teasing you’ – is similar to saying je rigole – ‘I’m joking’.
 
You can also say say je t'embête – I am messing with you.
 
Agacer, anrager, tourmenter or piquer are other options, but these all have a slightly darker undertone.
 
Other options

Similarly to the English expression ‘playing with’ (someone), taquiner can also literally mean ‘play an instrument’.

Il taquine le piano means ‘he plays the piano (a little)’. 

Taquine can also be used as an adjective. If you say that something or someone is taquine, it means that they have a playful or teasing nature.
 
It's been used by Le Figaro to describe the French language itself: la langue française est souvent aussi subtile que taquine – 'the French language is often as subtle as it is teasing'.
 
As anyone brave enough to embark the journey through the jungle of grammar rules and exceptions that is the French language, they will know that it is a fitting description. 

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