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Talk to the hand
A young woman holding out her hand

Talk to the hand


Listen to Professor Crystal

Talk to the hand. This is a phrase that became very well known in the 1990s. It basically means 'I'm not listening to you'. If you want to stop somebody talking, you might say it. 'Talk to my hand!' You hold your palm of your hand up aggressively against their face as if to stop them. You're showing disapproval, in other words.

There's an old phrase - 'talk to the hand because the face ain't listening'. Or you sometimes hear it - 'talk to the hand because the ears ain't listening'. In other words, it's 'stop now!' It's from black English and it came into American, young speech generally on television, especially in some of those confrontational shows which are still around, like 'The Jerry Springer Show'. And you often see the man in charge of the show, or the lady in charge of the show, holding up their hand to a guest who is going on. It's euphemistic way of saying 'shut up!' - you know - 'I want you to stop!' But without actually being so rude as to say 'shut up!' The hand itself does the job.

Lynne Truss used it as the title of her book on lack of manners, 'Talk to the Hand'. It's not a usage I would recommend anybody uses without great care. It's pretty confrontational. It's pretty impolite. 'Talk to my hand!' It might upset somebody. So, if you use it, be careful.


download transcriptTranscript (pdf - 42k)

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