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Journal of Politeness Research

Language, Behaviour, Culture

Ed. by Grainger, Karen

2 Issues per year

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2015: 1.441
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2015: 1.521
Impact per Publication (IPP) 2015: 1.909

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What makes teasing impolite in Australian and British English? “Step[ping] over those lines […] you shouldn’t be crossing”

Valeria Sinkeviciute
  • Corresponding author
  • The University of Queensland, School of Languages and Cultures, Australia
  • Email:
Published Online: 2017-04-07 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/pr-2015-0034


Even though in English-speaking cultural contexts a humorous reaction to teasing seems to be highly valued, jocularity can and does sometimes occasion evaluations of impoliteness. This paper aims to examine what makes the targets and/or other ratified hearers (the third party) evaluate teasing as impolite and to observe how impoliteness (as an evaluative situated phenomenon) functions in jocular interactions in two cultural contexts – Australian and British. The data comes from two national versions of the same reality gameshow – Big Brother Australia 2012 and Big Brother UK 2012. The results from both data sets reveal that teasing is often negatively evaluated when it is meant to amuse the hearers at the target’s expense or it is delivered in a non-affectionate way. Furthermore, some cultural differences have been noticed. While British housemates do not particularly appreciate jocular comments that target some personal characteristics or one’s personal items (i.e. seen as a personal attack), Australians tend to label jocular verbal behaviour as inappropriate when it is used to exclude the target or when it disrupts social harmony in general.

Keywords: teasing; impoliteness; Australian English; British English; Big Brother

About the article

Published Online: 2017-04-07

Citation Information: Journal of Politeness Research, ISSN (Online) 1613-4877, ISSN (Print) 1612-5681, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/pr-2015-0034. Export Citation

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