Listen to the author reading this blog post:
by Liz Walter
My last two posts (Verbs to use instead of ‘say’ and Using animal noises to show human emotions) have been about verbs that describe the way people speak. In this post and the next one, I’ll be looking at some useful phrases that actually contain the verbs talk, speak, and say.
I’ll start with phrases we use to describe someone who typically talks a lot – as you will see, there is a lot of regional variation here. In UK English, we say that someone can talk the hind leg(s) off a donkey, while in Australian English, they can talk the legs off an iron pot. In US English, someone who talks a blue streak says a lot very fast:
I couldn’t get away from Jake – he really can talk the hind leg off a donkey!
He can talk a blue streak about classic cars.
If you say that someone is all talk (and no action), you mean that they talk about doing something but they never actually do it. Similarly, if someone talks the talk, they sound very confident about something, but people may wonder if they will really walk the walk (do what they say they will do):
He’s got several schemes for reducing crime, but his critics say he’s all talk.
She talked the talk during the election campaign, but so far she’s not walking the walk.
In US English, when people talk turkey, they discuss something very honestly and directly, while if they talk smack, they insult one another, often either as a joke or in order to intimidate a sporting opponent:
If we want to make any progress, it’s time to talk turkey.
The two men were talking smack before the game.
If you feel that someone’s criticism is hypocritical because they have the same fault, you could respond by saying You can talk!, Look who’s talking!, or You’re a fine one to talk! In US English, the variant You should talk! is also used:
“Her house is so dirty.” “You can talk! When was the last time you cleaned this floor?”
Jamie’s got a new job. Oh, speak of the devil, here he is!
I was hoping for a nice relaxing day out, but Marianne wanted to talk shop.
I’ll finish with a positive phrase. If someone makes a good offer or suggestion, especially if they have offered or suggested something less attractive before, you can show your enthusiasm by saying Now you’re talking!:
10% more money and my own office? Now you’re talking!
I hope you found these phrases useful. Look out for my next post, on phrases containing the verbs ‘speak’ and ‘say’.