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Speak to and Talk to
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2013/02/16
11:30am
geogirl
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In the past year or so I have noticed an increase in the usage of the term "Speak to" used in the place of "explain", "refer to" or "talk about".  "Joe can speak to this subject better than I can", for example.  I have noticed at work recently that it has morphed into "talk to", as in "Joe, can you talk to this PowerPoint slide"? or "I can talk to that subject".  Is this a recent local trend, or a regional one?

2013/02/16
4:56pm
New River, AZ, USA
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Welcome to the forum geogirl. Don't know where you're located, but here in Arizona I hear it all the time. I also hear it on national broadcasts, so I suspect this is not a regional thing. Grammatically, it does not make sense. Still, people know what it means.

I cannot point you to an origin. Ngrams shows a reversal of a downward usage trend for "speak to" around 1980, but I don't know if that corresponds to the usage you're asking about.

My guess is that it's just one of those morphs of the language that (for whatever reason) caught on. Sorta like NASA saying "on orbit" instead of "in orbit." Or the NFL reporting scores/yards/whatever as "on the game."

2013/02/17
1:43am
Robert
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'Speak to' sounds ok by me.  It seems fairly common, and more business-liked than 'speak about.'  

 'Talk to' in that sense, I seldom hear if at all- probably new, with people trying to be fresh.
 
Some interesting result from Ngram:  put these 4 strings together "speak to this issue,speak to this subject,talk to this issue,talk to this subject,"  the first will come out dominant, taking off mid-1960.
If you add "speak to,"  it blows all the others away, which is understandable: most of it should mean 'speak to a person.'
 
2013/02/17
6:24am
geogirl
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Thank you for your responses.  I have noticed that these memes happen mostly in the office, or on radio/television, as Heimhenge said.  Another one that seemed to spread quickly through meetings and emails was "I am needing" or "I am wanting".  It's interesting how people will say one phrase for awhile, then it falls off, and another phrase pops up.

2013/02/17
7:56pm
Robert
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But you've raised another thing-

'Be wanting of something' is just like 'be short of something'- wanting being adjective.
But 'wanting something' with it as gerund is something else entirely.
 
Usually a gerund describes an on-going activity, 'I am eating, I am thinking.'  But in an office environment, if a boss wants something, or even a colleague wants things from another,  it makes no sense for the person to describe her current state of mind with a gerund. She should just say 'I want this from you.'  Or, the softer 'I need this from you.'
 
'I am wanting this from you' deserves only some acknowledgement, like, 'Is that so? Let me know when I can help.'
 
2013/02/19
4:36pm
New River, AZ, USA
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Robert said: 'I am wanting this from you' deserves only some acknowledgement, like, 'Is that so? Let me know when I can help.'
Totally agree. I dislike that construction. McDonalds commercials are promoting that construction via their "I'm loving it." ads.
 
Now grammatically, that is a logical construction. But why go through the effort of converting the simple statement "I love it." to an active verb form? Imho, it adds absolutely nothing to the communication. I'm hating it.
2013/02/24
8:46am
asusena Armenia
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Robert said
……….

Usually a gerund describes an on-going activity, 'I am eating, I am thinking.'  
Does gerund describe an on-going activity? I suppose not. Doesn't present participle describe an on-going activity? Surely. Gerund and present participle coincide in form, but differ in their 'meaning'. In "Smoking is bad for health",  the word smoking is a gerund, but in "I saw him smoking", here it is participle.
 
Here is a link on the point:
 
2013/02/24
8:55am
asusena Armenia
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2013/02/24
1:32pm
natatorium
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"Joe, can you talk to this PowerPoint slide"?

…and coming up hard on the outside, "Joe, can you unpack this PowerPoint slide?"

Not sure, but, at the end of the day, it's my guess that these buzz words crop up out of flavor-of-the-year business/motivational/self-help bestsellers—and the sheep who lead in the business world all glom onto them as though they themselves coined/discovered it. Does this belief make me an outlier?

2013/02/24
2:24pm
Ron Draney
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asusena Armenia said

Robert said
……….

Usually a gerund describes an on-going activity, 'I am eating, I am thinking.'  
Does gerund describe an on-going activity? I suppose not. Doesn't present participle describe an on-going activity? Surely. Gerund and present participle coincide in form, but differ in their 'meaning'. In "Smoking is bad for health",  the word smoking is a gerund, but in "I saw him smoking", here it is participle.

While both the gerund and the present participle look alike (they're the forms ending in -ing) they can be distinguished by their grammatical part in the sentence: gerunds behave like nouns, participles (past as well as present) like adjectives. A very compact example:

  • Baking casseroles are a hobby of mine. – "Baking" is a present participle (qualifying the type of dish).
  • Baking casseroles is a hobby of mine. – "Baking" is a gerund (referring to the activity of baking as a thing).
2013/02/24
8:15pm
Robert
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So I misused a word I knew some lifetime ago. Except incidentally (and only incidentally) my wording was not wrong, because gerund often describes and on-going activity: 'Going to classes is one of her on-going activities.'  
 
But obviously in my post up there, it was progressive participle, not gerund.
 
Now  sometimes which it is depends on your interpretation:
Las Vegas is gambling —> LV symbolizes gambling
Las Vegas is gambling —> LV is doing it

 

2013/02/25
2:53am
asusena Armenia
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