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From an article named "Iran’s nuclear programme: A red line and a reeling rial":

SIX YEARS ago, when America and Europe were putting in place the first raft of measures to press Iran to come clean over its nuclear ambitions, the talk was of “smart” sanctions.

Does "The talk was of 'smart' sanctions" mean "It's the talk of the 'smart' sanctions"? It's the first time I have ever seen this turn of phrase. I mean, of course I know "He can be of help" means "He can be helpful", but they are not the same case here, are they? I would like to know more about its structure.

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2 Answers 2

It means that American and European diplomats wanted to impose "smart" sanctions that would affect the regime rather than the people instead of the heavy-handed blunt sanctions that imposed on Iraq.

The talk was of means "they were talking about". It cannot be replaced with "It's the talk of the 'smart' sanctions", which doesn't make sense in context.

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On the question of structure, you have to remember the multiple meanings of 'of'. In the sentence

The talk was of X

the 'of' means 'about, concerning.'

Compare that with this example:

The treasure was of gold and silver

Here the 'of' refers to the kind of material.

Then you have

The glory of nature

Here the 'of' is more "possessive", serving to identify that it is nature that has glory as opposed to something else.

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