Almost immediately, she was lost in the labyrinth of works for sale: Takashi Murakami’s lurid blond plastic milkmaids with long legs and erect nipples; the words “any messages?” spelled out in neon tubing. It was like an enactment of the world inhabited by the protagonist of Moshfegh’s forthcoming novel, “My Year of Rest and Relaxation,” who works at a gallery in Chelsea, amid objects like a quarter-million-dollar “pair of toy monkeys made using human pubic hair,” with camera penises poking out from their fur. “Did I do this?” Moshfegh said, only half kidding. She sometimes gets the sense that she has the power to conjure reality through her writing.

Though the details of Moshfegh’s books vary wildly, her work always seems to originate from a place that is not quite earth, where people breathe some other kind of air.
The New Yorker, Ottessa Moshfegh’s Otherworldly Fiction By Ariel Levy

How common is saying “half kidding”? And what is the difference when “only” is put in front of it? “Only half kidding”? Does it say she was semi serious in a way that was apparent in her face with a frown? Or it just simply mean that it was not clear if she was kidding or really meant it?

  • 3
    We can reopen this question when you tell us where this passage came from. See Why you should cite your source on meta. (By the way, I think it's an excellent question.)
    – J.R.
    Commented Jan 2, 2019 at 1:40
  • 1
    @J.R. I've taken the liberty of citing the source and including a link. Certainly, if user5036 is a repeated offender, I was wrong and I won't be so charitable the next time!
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jan 2, 2019 at 11:53
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    @Mari-LouA I went ahead and reopened it since you were kind enough to add the source.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jan 2, 2019 at 13:54
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    @Mari-LouA - Definitely a repeat offender when it comes to poorly-titled questions with uncited passages not put quote boxes. Hopefully, this was the last batch of those!
    – J.R.
    Commented Jan 2, 2019 at 22:45
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    @J.R. well, I'm sure user5036 will do everything by the book if they want more ELL users to answer their questions. Adding a > before quotes is dead easy :)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jan 2, 2019 at 22:49

1 Answer 1


"Half kidding" or "half joking" mean that something is presented as a joke, but there is some truth to the comment. They are common phrases.

"Only" is used here simply to emphasize that the person is not completely kidding.

The phrases refer to the intent of the person making the statement (e.g. Moshfegh asked the question in a joking manner but did somewhat wonder whether she was responsible). The other people in the conversation may or may not be aware that someone is half kidding.

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