Talk out of both sides of one’s mouth

Talk out of both sides of one’s mouth is an idiom with a hazy origin. We will examine the meaning of the common saying talk out of both sides of one mouth, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

To talk out of both sides of one’s mouth means to change one’s advice or opinion depending on who one is talking to or what situation one finds oneself in. For instance, someone who is in the company of people who do not like cucumbers may state that he doesn’t like cucumbers. Later, when he finds himself in the company of people who do like cucumbers, he may state that he does like cucumbers. His opinion is not an honest one; it is a statement he makes to ingratiate himself with the group. People who talk out of both sides of their mouths are looked down upon as hypocritical, undependable, and insincere. The origin of the idiom talk out of both sides of one’s mouth is unknown. Some trace it to a passage in the Bible, Proverbs 4:24, but this passage does not use the term “both sides of one’s mouth” in any form; it talks about lying. A more likely inspiration for the idiom is the ancient idea that the right side of anything is the positive or godly side, and the left side of anything is the negative or evil side.

Examples

Wasserman Schultz, who said she can translate “DeSantis-ese,” said the governor is “talking out of both sides of his mouth.” (Sun Sentinel)

His recent move makes it look as though he’s talking out of both sides of his mouth, what with one day stating he’s not going to lift the mask mandate, but two days later, goes and says restaurants can be back at 100%. (Times-West Virginian)

A man little known for dexterity, Gov. Jim Justice has proved a relentless rhetorical contortionist, harumphing out of both sides of his mouth while producing his own brand of Doublethink, only not so cleverly Orwellian. (Charleston Gazette-Mail)

Leave a Comment