Home Education Cognitive Linguistics and Humor Research.
A shift in the teaser: indirect teasing
A third variant of atypical teasing instances with respect to the parameter ‘teaser’ are those instances which feature more of an off-screen director or choreographer, rather than an actual teaser. The teaser thus appears as a manipulator, who makes use of a medium to perform the teasing for him or her. An example of this is the following sequence from The Nanny. Fran has just been erroneously arrested for kidnapping a baby, when Mr. Sheffield and CC enter the police office to set things straight. After a brief conversation with the head police officer, a woman appears who is unmistakably a prostitute, claiming to recognize CC as her former colleague. Naturally, both Maxwell and CC are utterly startled; the former because he can’t believe his business partner is a former prostitute, the latter because she indeed has never seen the woman in her life. It is not until the very end of the scene (lines 14-17), that everything becomes clear: Niles paid the prostitute to act as if CC was a former colleague. 
This teasing instance constitutes an illustration of layering and ‘teasership’. With regard to allocating communication on different layers, it should be noted that Niles paid the prostitute to play the implied prostitute, who apparently recognizes (implied) CC as her former colleague. The perspective of these two roles - the real and the implied prostitute - is held together on the basis of common ground. In the base space, the real prostitute has never met CC, which is a true fact. The implied prostitute, however, is identical to the real prostitute, with the addition of a shared past with implied CC. In other words: she knows implied CC, and she knows that implied CC should know this too. This is the layered communication Niles wants the prostitute to participate in.
With regard to the teaser, it has already been stated that this teasing instance features some sort of director, choreographer or puppeteer, rather than an actual (visible) teaser. During the entire teasing instance (more specifically lines 3-13), Maxwell and the audience do not realize that the prostitute is actually playing a role. As mentioned, it is only from line 14 onwards that we realize that the prostitute’s utterances were staged by the ‘director’ Niles. On the one hand, it thus becomes clear that Niles is not a prototypical teaser, since he does not do anything in the teasing instance proper. He merely set the stage, literally hired an actress and devised a story line, but this set-up had been arranged entirely before the actual teasing instance. On the other hand, it is clear that Niles is the one who initiated the diminishment of CC. She is the target of a staged communicative act (Clark 1996), and there is only one possible ‘culprit’, namely Niles.
It is important to note that the prostitute is not the teaser since she has never met CC and most certainly would have never met her, if it had not been for Niles. It is Niles, and Niles only, who creates the brief connection in both women’s lives. Also, the prostitute is merely completing an ‘assignment’ as she is not teasing CC, but instead doing what Niles said in exchange for money. Finally, there is a complete lack of intention (with regard to teasing) on the prostitute’s part. She is not pretending to know CC because she wants to tease her, but because she receives money for it.
In sum, Niles made use of a ‘medium’ (the prostitute) to indirectly tease CC, hence the categorization of this group of teasing instances as indirect teasing. Subsequently, there are three deictic anchor points that remain unchanged: there is still a certain message, a definite receiver (CC) and it all happens in the immediate present time zone. The shift is located in the sender (the teaser, Niles), which makes use of a medium to deliver the message.
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