Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

In the following sentence:

I'll have to give myself a stern talking to.

is it "stern talking to", or "stern talking too"?

share|improve this question

3 Answers 3

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Merriam-Webster and the New Oxford American Dictionary say it's a stern talking-to, with a hyphen.

share|improve this answer

If you're fine with talking to someone frankly, you tend to phrase it in terms of, well, just talking to them.

I will have to talk to Bob.
I will have to give the same talk to Sue.
I will have to give that talk to Greg, too.
I will also be talking to Fred.

Most people who use a talking to as a noun do so to describe some chore or other unpleaseant responsibility.

Gracie wet the bed. I will have to give her a talking to.

Knowledgeable English scholars are able to tell the difference.

I tried to talk to Molly, but she was too busy listening to Diane. Now I need to give Diane a talking to too.

Talking to is an old-fashioned verb form (or nounification, if that's a word*) that reflects the idea that superiors talking to a junior were talking to them, not with them.

Hence, if you would like to have a better relationship with your inner self, you're probably better off conversing or discussing or, heaven forbid, understanding. If you don't have such a good relationship with your inner self you could encourage or cajole or persuade. To give yourself a stern talking to is a sign that you regard your subconscious mind as a child. You're probably better off giving yourself some encouragement and a stern talking to too.

*Oh, wow, it is.

share|improve this answer
1  
Nominalization is the word you want, but nounification is perfectly compositional, as well as cromulent. All of these are Event Nominalizations of transitive verbs, usually denoting unpleasant events, like give X a whipping/licking/beating/lashing/talking to, which are equivalent to whip/lick/beat/lash/talk to X, respectively. The to is necessary because talk is intransitive and requires a transitivizing preposition. –  John Lawler Mar 28 '12 at 23:58

In the expression, the people are talking TO themselves, so it's a talking to.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.