Talk to the hand

Talk to the hand is a relatively new idiom. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase, or phrasal verbs that have a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. These figures of speech often use descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often colloquialisms or descriptors that are spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase or expression that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions that native speakers understand such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, eye to eye, barking up the wrong tree, bite the bullet, beat a dead horse, hit the nail on the head, kicked the bucket, blow off steam, jump on the bandwagon, piece of cake, hit the sack, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. It is possible to memorize a list of idioms, but it may be easier to pay attention to the use of idioms in everyday speech, where peculiar imagery will tell you that the expressions should not be taken literally. We will examine the meaning of the idiomatic phrase talk to the hand, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

Talk to the hand is a phrase that tells someone to stop talking, to be quiet, that you are not interested in hearing what that person has to say. The full idiom is talk to the hand because the face ain’t listening. Like many idioms and proverbs, a partial quote is usually sufficient to convey one’s meaning. The image is of someone holding up one hand in front of the speaker’s face as a gesture that means to stop. The idiom talk to the hand became popular in the 1990s and was introduced by an American television comedy, Martin. Using the phrase talk to the hand is a vague insult. It is dismissive, letting the speaker know that he is unimportant.


This is a poor day to ask for permission when talking to a parent or a boss because their response will likely be, “Talk to the hand!” (The National Post)

US offers to host APEC summit; Malaysia says, ‘talk to the hand’ (Business Day)

TALK TO THE HAND Love Island’s Rykard Jenkins slams Joanna for ‘unacceptable’ behaviour as she grabs Michael’s face and demands he leave the villa (The Sun)

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