Walk the talk

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Wed Aug 17 09:44:08 UTC 2005

On Wed, 17 Aug 2005 09:55:01 +0100, Michael Quinion
<wordseditor at WORLDWIDEWORDS.ORG> wrote:

>There are 153,000 examples of "walk the talk" on Google. I know of
>"you can talk the talk but can you walk the walk" (though my erratic
>memory can't tell me the source, of even if that's the right way
>around). Is "walk the talk" a deliberate conflation, or is it an
>error (not an eggcorn, but what kind of error?) that has become
>sanctified by usage?

There was some discussion of this expression on alt.usage.english last
year. Here are my contributions:


I suggest a possible connection to the expression "walk it like you talk
it", popular around 1970. That would fit the chronology if "walk the talk"
began to be used in the mid-'70s -- Newspaperarchive has a cite from 1976
quoting Johnny Cash.

As for the full "walk the walk/talk the talk" version, I initially
speculated that this began as a catchphrase among members of Alcoholics
Anonymous (based on a 1969 Washington Post cite). This hunch is further
corroborated by a Newspaperarchive cite from 1962:

Southtown Economist (Chicago, Ill.), Apr 15, 1962, p. 6/3
Thurston also believes that as AA members, he and his staff are qualified
to carry out the program because "if you have never walked the walk, you
can't talk the talk."

--Ben Zimmer

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