Talk is … A Presidential Debate

Talk Is ….

Pentecost 127


“Talk is cheap.”  Some call that saying an idiom while others classify it as a proverb.  That brings to light a question.  What is the difference between an idiom and a proverb?  Most dictionaries define an idiom as a fixed distinctive expression whose meaning cannot be deduced from the combined meanings of its actual words or the manner of using speech that is comfortable to a specific person or group of persons.  A proverb has a much simpler definition: a short well-known saying that expresses an obvious truth and often offers advice.


Talk, however, can be confusing because while the definitions of an idiom and a proverb are not that similar, their synonyms are – phrase, saying, expression.  The phrase “talk is cheap” refers to the fact that it is easy to speak but much more difficult to defend what has been spoken or even to verify its truth.


The easiest way to make a story less ordinary and more extraordinary is by the use of hyperbole.  The word hyperbole comes from two Greek words “ὑπέρ” and “βάλλω” [or the English versions “huper” and “bailio”] and translates as “I throw above.”   It literally means an over exaggeration or magnification.  The American folk tales about a lumberman and his pet known as Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox are perfect examples of hyperbole.  Tonight’s American presidential debate will probably be another one.


This will not be a post favoring one candidate or the other.  I respect my readers too much to do that.  This blog is about living better and, alas, politics seldom is about that.  What this debate does offer, though, is a chance to be mindful of what we say and how we live what we say.  If our living does not match our talk, then we have lived in vain.


Many believe it is better to just be quiet.  That way, no one can claim you said something you may not have said and no one can protest what you might have said.  In other words, it is the easy way out.  The problem with staying silent all the time, however, is that the only thing heard is that of someone else and they may not be stating the truth.  That means only the lies will be heard, never the truth and/or the facts.


Shannon Adler disputes the idea that being silent is better than speaking out.  “When you give yourself permission to communicate what matters to you in every situation you will have peace despite rejection or disapproval. Putting a voice to your soul helps you to let go of the negative energy of fear and regret.” 


After all, that is the only way to truly listen.  It is good sometimes to be quiet.  And, after listening, we need to think about what has been said.  Reactive speech is sometimes not speech that has been thought about before being uttered.  One of my favorite bumper stickers gave a great warning – “Engage brain before putting mouth in gear!”


Tonight millions may or may not listen while two candidates and a moderator engage in a political debate.  Hopefully, there will be little hyperbole and much fact, more substance than ego.  For many this debate will seem like a waste of time but when we truly communicate with real thoughts and intentions to which we are deeply committed, then talk is never a waste of time.


“For millions of years, mankind lived just like the animals,” Stephen Hawkins believes.  “ Then something happened which unleashed the power of our imagination. We learned to talk and we learned to listen. Speech has allowed the communication of ideas, enabling human beings to work together to build the impossible. Mankind’s greatest achievements have come about by talking, and its greatest failures by not talking. It doesn’t have to be like this. Our greatest hopes could become reality in the future. With the technology at our disposal, the possibilities are unbounded. All we need to do is make sure we keep talking.”


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