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I found the phrase "walk the walk" in President Obama's remark on budget cuts in the Washington Post's Today's Quote (Feb. 15). As I was unfamiliar with this phrase, I checked an online dictionary (www.phrase.org), that told me walk the walk means a lot of things are easier to talk about than to do, and is almost always said in combination with talk the talk (for example, if you're going to talk the talk, you've got to walk the walk).

However, President used walk the walk alone, not accompanied by talk the talk.

Is www.phrase.org’s walk the walk definition that the phrase is almost always accompanied by talk the talk wrong? How can I interpret walk the walk in the specific context of the following President Obama’s remark? And what is the origin of walk the walk? Is this a well-worn idiom?

It would mean cutting things that I care deeply about. But if we're going to walk the walk when it comes to fiscal discipline, these kinds of cuts will be necessary.

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2 Answers

up vote 0 down vote accepted

I might mention that I've heard people who are not native English speakers regularly confuse this phrase, and instead say, "Walk the talk & talk the walk."

+1 to Manoochehr for affirming that "Talk the talk" can stand alone, not least because listeners will customarily complete the phrase in their minds anyway.

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Here's what the OED online has to say, "Walk the walk (also walk the talk): informal , chiefly North American, suit one‘s actions to one’s words." Here's another link to the Washington Post –  Tragicomic Feb 16 '11 at 10:10
    
Wow; I always thought that phrasing was wrong. Actually, I still do. –  fortunate1 Feb 16 '11 at 12:22
    
@fortunate1: This sounds like a pet peeve.. the kind of stuff you find in books called "Common Mistakes in English" or those blogs that rant about how everyone else is murdering the language. Here's another link to an editorial in the New York Times, the title of which is "Walk the Talk": nytimes.com/2010/06/06/opinion/06sun3.html I also wanted to say that this answer would have made more sense as a comment. –  Tragicomic Feb 16 '11 at 13:13
    
Yeah, I can see the logic in this alternative construction; I won't use the phrase that way, though. [EDIT: "this answer" meaning my "I might mention...", you mean?] –  fortunate1 Feb 16 '11 at 13:16
    
@fortunate1: Hah.. I don't use it that way either. I just think that if usage is well-documented and idiomatic, it is incorrect to call it incorrect. Also, if non-native English speakers regularly confuse this phrase (which I don't think is the case here.. it looks like everyone, from the guys at OED to the NYT to the Washington Post, is using this), it would mean it is accepted usage for them, and therefore, correct:-) Yes, I meant the "I might mention..." It doesn't seem like an answer to the question, unless you meant it as one. –  Tragicomic Feb 16 '11 at 13:28
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It's not always accompanied by "Talk the Talk", though they're rhyming expressions. It can stand alone as it's used in the example below.

According to Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English

Walk the Walk: to do the things that people expect or think are necessary in a particular situation

Example:

People are motivated by leaders who actually walk the walk.

Walk the Walk with us! The time for talk is over.

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