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I very often see なんてね or some similar phrase being translated to "Just kidding"? but why does it mean this and how does the grammar behind it work?

3 Answers 3

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なんて is an informal word that is used after some phrase and implies it is not important.

So when なんて is used like a standalone interjection, it means you said the previous sentence not seriously.

ね is a sentence-end particle and thus optional. You can say なんて! ("kidding!") without largely changing the meaning. なんてな is the same (sounds a bit more masculine).

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The verb 言う is omitted after なんて. So you can translate it "saying (something) like that", or virtually as a subjunctive: "(as if) it be/were like that". That's why it comes to have "I'm kidding" sense.

enter image description here (Left: screen capture of 逆転裁判5, Right: the corresponding line in the English localization, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies.)

A synonymous expression is なんちゃって (< なんて言っちゃって). This one also works as a slangy adjective "pretend", as in なんちゃって家族 "a pretend family".

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"xxxなんてね"  

『あんた(あんたは、あなたは)死んだ方がいいよ。』なんてね。
I'd rather you were dead, just kidding.
『あんたは、死んだ方がいいよ。』なんて言ったりしてね。
『あんたは、死んだ方がいいよ』と、本気で言ったりしてね。
『あんたは、死んだ方がいいよ』(Once you said it cleary, then) って本気で言ったと思う?本気じゃないよ、冗談だよ。
"I'd rather you were dead. (Once you said it cleary, then) Can I say it in earnest? NOWAY! I'm just saying it in fun."
→ I'd rather you were dead, just kidding.

もし、この説明で分かってもらえなかったら、もう僕はこのサイトに回答を投稿しないよ。なんてね。

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