Walk the talk
Posted: 12 March 2010 09:30 PM   [ Ignore ]
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How old is this phrase? I have the sense that it is fairly recent, perhaps from the 1980s.

Is the originator known?

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Posted: 13 March 2010 05:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Walk the talk? Haven’t heard that variant. OED has a 1921 cite for the usual form so it’s been around a while.

trans. colloq. (orig. U.S.). to walk the (also that) walk: to behave in a manner consistent with the image one projects or the values one advocates; to back up rhetoric with action. Freq. collocated or contrasted with to talk the (also that) talk at TALK v. Additions a.

1921 Mansfield (Ohio) News 27 June 9/3 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.

[ Edited: 13 March 2010 05:15 AM by aldiboronti ]
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Posted: 13 March 2010 07:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I also hadn’t heard it, but it gets over 400,000 Google hits, so it’s obviously a thing.  The earliest I’ve found in a cursory Google Books search is from Dynamic Business Strategy, by Theodore A. Smith (Tata McGraw-Hill, 1977), p. 4.8:

Last, but not the least, they should walk the talk, i.e. they should lead by example.

The “i.e.” suggests the expression was new enough to need explanation.

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Posted: 13 March 2010 05:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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That surprises me. I haven’t heard what you call “the usual form” !
!

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Posted: 13 March 2010 06:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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My experience is like lh’s and aldi’s.  Although I think I’ve heard “walk the talk” before, I thought it was just an erroneous mangling of the more common pairing walk the walk/talk the talk.

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Posted: 14 March 2010 02:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Well there you go. And “walk the walk” does win the Googlematch by nearly 2:1.

I have to say though, that “walk the talk” seems a better way to represent the idea of “to back up rhetoric with action” than does “walk the walk”.

“trans. colloq. (orig. U.S.). to walk the (also that) walk: to behave in a manner consistent with the image one projects or the values one advocates; to back up rhetoric with action”

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Posted: 15 March 2010 06:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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It was used a lot in the late civil rights movement here in the US.  I specifically remember Walter Fauntroy in DC use it but I have a vague memory of Jesse Jackson and other use it.  Not ML King, however.  I think it emerged after his death.  It sounds like a phrase that may have emerged in a sermon in an African American tradition, but that’s just a WAG. 

An earlier form I have heard “You can’t just talk the talk, you eventually have to walk the walk” which may have been shortened to “Walk the talk.”

I get “walk the talk” back to late 90s at NewspaperArchive.

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Posted: 15 March 2010 06:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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The earliest solid hit at NPA is this quote from Johnny Cash in 1976:

No account of Johnny Cash would be complete without mention of the religious feeling that has motivated him since childhood. “I didn’t always live it, I didn’t always ‘walk the talk,’ but I’ve been trying to lately.”

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Posted: 15 March 2010 08:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Maybe I am imagining this, but it seems to me that the two phrases, “talk the talk and walk the walk” and “walk the talk” have different meanings.

“Talk the talk and walk the walk” has a sense of conforming speech and actions to an objective ideal.  It would be used in a situation where a person’s loyalty or adherence to the ideal might be in question.  So you might say, “Joe will be there on the picket line; he talks the talk and walks the walk”.

“Walk the talk” seems to me to address internal consistency—it expresses that a person is not hypocritical.

Like Dr. T, I thought “walk the talk” was unusual and maybe an error.  I hadn’t given it much thought.

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Posted: 15 March 2010 08:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Like Dr. T, I thought “walk the talk” was unusual and maybe an error.

That’s what I would have thought. There are any number of examples where people alter a phrase they’ve heard, through no better reason that thoughtlessness, or just plain ignorance: others pick it up, and if such people are in the public eye (and ear), in no time at all you’ve got a current phrase.  Expressions like “with baited breath”, “the straight and narrow way”, “gild the lily”, “lead on, Macduff” come immediately to mind. Sometimes these terms end up having a wider currency than the original.

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Posted: 15 March 2010 12:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I don’t think this is a mistake like straight/strait and narrow.  Let me say again that I’m quite sure that the original phrase from which “walk the talk” is derived was, “You can’t just talk the talk.  You have to walk the walk.” Google books has the original phrase here—a collection of homilies from 2006. There are several cites of Hillary Clinton and others using this phrase

I’ve never heard, “talk the talk and walk the walk.”

edit: Just found this at Phrase Finder where the several meanings are discussed.  His “earliest” cite of “Walk the Talk” is ‘93, but I have it back to ‘76 as I noted above.

[ Edited: 15 March 2010 02:05 PM by Oecolampadius ]
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Posted: 16 March 2010 06:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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"Maybe I am imagining this, but it seems to me that the two phrases, “talk the talk and walk the walk” and “walk the talk” have different meanings.”

Seems that way to me too, though the distinction is subtle.

“The earliest solid hit at NPA is this quote from Johnny Cash in 1976”

Thanks, Oecolampadius.

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Posted: 16 March 2010 07:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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OP Tipping - 16 March 2010 06:55 AM

“Maybe I am imagining this, but it seems to me that the two phrases, “talk the talk and walk the walk” and “walk the talk” have different meanings.”

As I’ve said, I don’t think I’ve heard “Talk the talk and walk the walk” but from what folks have said here, it means “going along”

The phrase, “you can’t just talk the talk, you have to walk the walk” is entirely different as is its cousin “walk the talk.”

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Posted: 18 March 2010 08:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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I’ve never heard or read “Walk the talk” until this thread but I immediately recognized it as a shortened version of the well known “You can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?” saying in all of it’s various forms. If someone said to me “Can you walk the talk?” the meaning would be very clear that he was challenging me to actually do what I say I can do.

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Posted: 29 March 2010 07:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Hi OP. As a fellow Aussie, I’ve readily heard “walk the talk” as a distinct phrase, and have never considered it a shortening of anything. Talking the talk is one thing, but walking the talk is something else again.

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Posted: 08 October 2010 11:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Walk the talk Is not a new phrase by any stretch of the imagination, this phrase has been around for ages.

@Oecolampadius, Thanks for posting the Johny Cash snippet, I am a huge fan of his and I believe the phrase was in his movie walk the line.

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[ Edited: 31 October 2010 03:41 PM by Kenn ]
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