THE CURMUDGEONESS'S LAIR

curmudgeon: n [origin unknown] (1568) a crusty, ill-tempered, and usu. old man.--Webster's

Whenever I hear somebody say she’s going to walk the walk, I cringe. First off, it’s a cliché employed to show how hip the speaker is. Secondly, it shows the speaker’s ignorance because the phrase “walk the walk” is a meaningless tautology.

 

What does it literally mean to walk the walk? The phrase has usually been employed by hipsters who “talk the talk,” another tautology. What they mean is that they are putting into practice—or “operationalizing” as modern parlance would have it—their own or somebody else’s words.

According to The Phrase Finder, the phrase is almost a hundred years old and was first used in the Mansfield News, an Ohio newspaper printed in June 1921: “Although he has no gilded medals upon his bosom, Howard Herring of the North American Watch Company, walks the walk, and talks the talk, of a hero today.”

Allow me to say that the way the words are used in that sentence makes perfect grammatical sense because the newspaper is saying that Herring walks like a hero and talks like a hero.

The Phrase Finder’s example of usage could use some improvement: “Arthur frequently says that he will quit drinking alcohol, but he doesn’t seem to really mean it since I saw him drinking up a storm at the bar last night. He talks the talk by saying he’ll quit, but he needs to actually stop if he wants to walk the walk.” (https://knowyourphrase.com/talk-the-talk)

 

Why not just say he talks as though he’ll quit, but he needs to actually stop if he wants to show he means it? If one must use these phrases, the correct way to express that thought is to say that one is walking the talk: “He talks the talk by saying he’ll quit, but he needs to walk the talk and actually stop.” In this case, it’s clear that Arthur should take action to demonstrate that he means what he says.

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