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Two final examples

By way of summarizing our overview of the relevant parameters that allow to determine and characterize teasing sequences, we shall now consider two final excerpts - one prototypical case of teasing and one which is more peripheral - and subsequently analyze these fragments in terms of the five aforementioned parameters.

The first excerpt, example (14) from The Nanny, represents a prototypical teasing instance as every parameter can be easily identified and straightforwardly determined. The fragment is set in Mr. Sheffield’s office, where he and CC are doing some paperwork while Niles is cleaning Maxwell’s desk. Suddenly Fran barges in, subtly trying to tell Maxwell something in private, without Niles hearing it. Based on a mutual trust between long-time friends Maxwell and Niles, the former deems the secrecy unnecessary and invites Fran to speak freely (line 09). CC replies to Maxwell’s statement by using a hyperunderstanding, thus setting up a first teasing instance in which she targets Niles (line 10). More specifically, CC offers an unexpected causal explanation for

Maxwell’s statement as it identifies Niles as the person who violates the elementary house rule of secrecy by listening at the door. In giving this explanation, CC metonymically turns Maxwell’s positively intended utterance into a rather negative complaint, thus altering the illocutionary status of Maxwell’s utterance. In line 11, Niles in turn trumps this initial teasing instance by construing yet another hyperunderstanding, in which he exploits CC’s allegation by specifying the reason why he listens at the door. He realizes the second teasing instance as he suggests CC being a cat - and thus inferior to him - by referring to the typical feline behavior of scratching at doors.

  • (14) TNN/002/005/0063b
  • 01 Mr. Sheffield < miss fine we’re in a bit of a CRUNCH here->
  • 02 < do you have anything to say that’s even (.) REMOTELY comprehensible;>
  • 03 Fran ow alright alright;
  • 04 but I ^DID wanna tell you this in private;
  • 05 follow my eyes,
  • 06 Mr. Sheffield what you don’t want to talk in front of the lamp,
  • 07 (-) wa o ^niles;
  • 08 o ^you can speak freely in front of ^hi:m,
  • 09 we have no secrets in this Chouse,
  • 10 CC < that’s because he listens at the DOOR;>
  • 11 Niles how else would I hear you SCRATCHing to get back IN;

The following table represents the analysis of this second teasing instance based on the five parameters.

Table 4: The parametrical analysis of example (14).


Niles is the obvious teaser in line 11.


CC is the obvious target of Niles' teasing instance. Like in the majority of teasing instances in the corpus, the target is singular and present.


CC's rather hostile teasing instance in line 10 is the ultimate trigger for Niles' teasing instance in line 11. It is a prototypical primary and verbal trigger, as in 62,4 % of the corpus data, involving hyperunderstanding of the key-element ‘he listens at doors'.


CC and Niles represent the textbook-example of a strong but extremely negative relationship.


The theatrical stage (layer 2) built on top of the bona-fide interaction consists of implied Niles claiming that implied CC is a cat.

The final excerpt, also taken from The Nanny, features a more peripheral teasing instance, in which some parameters are more complex and less easy to determine. The fragment is another example of non-actualized teasing, a subphenomenon of teasing which we discussed previously in section 4.1.2.

  • (15) TNN/002/006/GAMMA-005
  • 01 Fran o:w I can’t BE^LIEVE I’m holding a BABY;
  • 02 if only you came with a HUSband and a house in GREATneck;
  • 03 (-) okay we gotta act FAST here;
  • 04 gracie go bring down your pink blanket;
  • 05 Gracie ^not my ^blanke:y,
  • 06 Brighton o GOD-
  • 07 I can’t believe you still HAVE that thing;
  • 08 Fran and brighton;
  • 09 bring down the snoopy up in your closet;
  • 10 Brighton WHAT snoopy in my closet;

11 Fran <

< you know->>

  • 12 you’re just like my MOther;
  • 13 WHAT nestle’s crunch bar under my nordic track;
  • 14 (-) GO;
  • 15 Niles ((arrives, coming from living room))
  • 16 Fran o:w what a DA:Y I had toDA:Y-
  • 17 Niles mm let me guess-
  • 18 YARD SALE at mia farrow’s, =

19 Fran = <

oh> o::ho:w,

  • 20 Maggie go see if you can find some bottles,
  • 21 niles do we have any old NIPPLES around the house? =
  • 22 CC = ((enters))
  • 23 hello ^hello,
  • 26 Niles ((bites fran’s jacket, as to restrain himself from teasing cc))

Fran enters the Sheffield mansion holding an abandoned baby, and urges Maggie, Brighton and Gracie to find essentials for the child. Niles is asked for some old nipples to place on the bottles mentioned in line 22, at which exact point CC enters and thus triggers a second, metonymically motivated part/ whole-interpretation, which refers to CC in a rather unflattering way. The values of the different parameters in this sequence can be determined as follows:

Table 5: The parametrical analysis of example (15).


As it is an example of non-actualized teasing, there is no real, prototypical teaser. The fact that Niles bites Fran's coat as a sign of fighting the temptation to tease, shows that he could and would most certainly tease CC, but that he for some reason restrains himself. Concomitantly, we can neither say that there is a teaser, nor that there isn't. The teaser lies somewhere between absolute presence and absolute absence.


The same analysis holds for the target, which is somewhere between absolute presence and absence as well.


The non-actualized teasing sequence is triggered by hyperunderstanding of the key-element ‘old nipples' in line 23.


CC and Niles share a strong but extremely negative relationship.


Layering is quite a complex parameter in non-actualized teasing: since the teasing instance is not realized, it is impossible to determine a priori how the layering would be manifested. However, through the (potential) trigger ‘old nipples' and especially on the basis of expectations and other types of common ground viewers share about the genre, the series, the characters etc. viewers are well-equipped to make safe predictions about the hypothetical layering of meaning in this sequence.

In this final subsection we have shown that the five parameters of teasing are not always unambiguously present in a teasing instance. There are indeed many types of teasing that feature rather complex parametrical structures, as pointed out in excerpt (15).

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