I have come across normal usage like "let us talk about science" or "he is talking funny". In the first case, what we are going to talk about is science. In the second case, he is not talking about sense. It is only a Description or Adjective or Style of what he is saying. We can even consider "he is talking funny about science", where the style is funny and the topic is science.

I have recently seen some TV shows or NewsPaper articles which drop about where it seems to be required. Eg "talking movies" instead of "talking about movies", or "talking music" instead of "talking about music".

What is this grammatical concept known as ? Is it a recent occurrence ? How widespread is this usage ? Is there some case where this formation becomes ambiguous and about is mandatory ?

COMMENT : Here I am talking about grammar ; I hope I am talking sense.

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    Talk [+ object] : to have a conversation about (something). They are in the conference room talking business. They were talking baseball/politics. (M-W). Talk business, talk politics *: books.google.com/ngrams/… - I think it is just one ordinary usage of "talk".
    – user66974
    Commented Jun 14, 2015 at 18:32
  • It's pretty informal, despite the fact that it may be used by the press. My inclination would be to say that it's an Americanism, possibly derived from a manner of speech common to (and probably originated by) blue-collar workers: "Look at the size of that guy's forearms - we're talking gorilla, here."
    – Oldbag
    Commented Jun 14, 2015 at 18:42
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    @Oldbag I don't see it at all as an Americanism. It is perfectly idiomatic in Britain to say We are talking business/science/politics/football etc It is equally idiomatic to say we are talking about any and all of those things.
    – WS2
    Commented Jun 14, 2015 at 20:29
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    Related: What's the difference between “speak” and “talk”, grammatically speaking?. // Note that there is a constraint on acceptable 'objects' (which are probably better considered as adverbial objectives, reduced prepositional phrases): Let's talk money. / ??Let's talk weather. / *They're talking me/Peter. // But what connection have adverbs of manner (eg funn[il]y)? Commented Jun 14, 2015 at 22:17
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    @Janus 'Let's talk turkey' is also quite different from 'Now, the new recipes we've been looking at. Let's talk about turkey.' And OP's 'talk sense' is another idiom (= 'talk in a sensible way' rather than 'talk about sense'). Commented Jun 14, 2015 at 22:29

1 Answer 1


Let's talk X (and similar constructions)

where X is a noun phrase, has a variety of possible interpretations / possible substitutions for 'talk', depending on the nature of X. These structures certainly look like transitive usages of 'talk', though how useful the 'verb + DO' analysis really is (they talked tripe / *tripe was talked by them / *did they talk it) for individual senses is arguable. From AHDEL:

talk v.tr.

  1. To utter or pronounce (words): Their son is talking sentences now. [Don't talk tripe.]

2a. To speak about or discuss (something) or give expression to (something): talk business; talk treason.

b. Used to emphasize the extent or seriousness of something being mentioned: The police found money in the car. We're talking significant amounts of money.

  1. To speak or know how to speak (a language or a language variety): The passenger talked French with the flight crew. Can you talk the local dialect?

  2. To cause (someone) to be in a certain state or to do something by talking: They talked me into coming. [He's talking her to death.]

Sense 2a seems an obvious deletion of the preposition 'about' so that 'talk' is used at least superficially like 'discuss'. Prepositional deletion is not uncommon (I'll see you [on] Tuesday; they entered [into] an agreement; ...). It is often used to create a punchier variant. But being in the modern idiom, it may not sound natural when used with some older / traditional referents.

These Google Ngrams for "let's talk money", "they're talking politics" and "we're talking business" show that sense 2a above has been in use for quite a long time. General trends are hard to spot.

My impression that examples of sense 2a are widespread and common is supported by largish numbers of Google hits for "talking politics"; "talk money" ....

There are constraints on the actual noun phrase chosen. These seem to be for more subtle reasons than the avoidance of ambiguity.

Let's talk hip-hop.

?Let's talk plainchant. (incongruous)

?/??Let's talk weather. (unnatural sounding)

*Let's talk Mr Lee / the Simpsons / me.

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    Good answer Mr. Ashworth. This clarifies things for me, I thought I was dealing with a simple idiomatic expression. Thanks.
    – user98990
    Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 0:00
  • @Edwin , thanks for the comprehensive answer. I want to echo the comment by "Little Eva" that this clarifies a lot of things. Your response also has some pointers for me to follow eg "Prepositional Deletion".
    – Prem
    Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 6:25
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    @Little Eva Isn't a 'simple idiomatic expression' often one that people haven't made an attempt at the derivation of? see eg Shrobe Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 9:46
  • On numerous occasions since I began hanging-out at this place, that has certainly proven to be the case. Often it seems that the closer I look the more I find. Thanks for the missing-link, Mr. Ashworth. ;-)
    – user98990
    Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 18:03
  • Are you questioning my ancestry? :-( Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 18:09

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