What verb should I use when somebody is saying nonsense with the purpose of making a person smile?

I was thinking of tease, but the OALD says it means, "to laugh at somebody and make jokes about them, either in a friendly way or in order to annoy or embarrass them." In my case, I am not talking of laughing at somebody or making jokes about them. I could say nonsense about something I have (presumably) done, or about something that (presumably) happened.


I would call this being silly. If my friends or I are being silly, we're usually trying to get a smile out of one another.

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The words suggested in comments (play the fool,“To behave in a foolish or comical manner”, and noun buffoonery, “foolishness, silliness; the behaviour expected of a buffoon”) are good; also consider josh, “To tease someone in a kindly fashion”, and prattle, “To speak incessantly and in a childish manner; to babble”. Also see prate, near-synonyms of which include blabber, chatter, clack, gabble, gibber, maunder, palaver, piffle, prattle, twaddle.

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  • Isn't buffoon used as pejorative? – kiamlaluno May 16 '13 at 14:02
  • Yes, in senses like “An unintentionally ridiculous person” buffoon is pejorative, but it also has a not-pejorative sense “One who acts in a silly or ridiculous fashion; a clown or fool”. – James Waldby - jwpat7 May 16 '13 at 14:09
  • Buffoon is a pejorative that means something different give the context and tone of voice. If it is mild it indicates that you're just joking around. If it is severe it means you hold the buffoon in contempt. – Xenson May 16 '13 at 20:20
  • @Xenson I see. In Italian, buffone ("buffoon") would always be a pejorative, together with pagliaccio ("clown"). Of course, pagliaccio is not a pejorative when you are really working as clown in a circus, and you are saying what your work is. – kiamlaluno May 16 '13 at 21:37

If the "person" is a baby, one expression is "to talk baby talk." That is to speak a collection of meaningless, but good sounding syllables, because babies can't understand words anyway. But they can "smile" to pleasant sounds.

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