Talk to the hand

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"Talk to the hand" (or "tell it to the hand") is an English language slang phrase associated with the 1990s. It originated as a contemptuous way of saying one does not want to hear what the person who is speaking is saying. It is often elongated to a phrase such as "Talk to the hand, because the ears ain't listening" or "Talk to the hand, because the face ain't listening". A variant is "talk to the hand because the face don't understand!"

Two people demonstrate "Talk to the Hand"

Meaning and usage[edit]

The phrase is often considered to be sarcastic or obnoxious. The phrase was popularized by actor and comedian Martin Lawrence in his 1992 sitcom Martin.[1] The phrase is formally reported from as early as 1995, when a local Indianapolis magazine story noted "Talk to the hand—The phrase, which means, 'Shut up', is accompanied by a hand in front of the victim's face".[2]

It is usually accompanied by the gesture of extending one arm toward the other person, with the palm of that hand facing the person being insulted, in the manner of the gesture to stop. Use of the phrase was noted to be a passing trend, as one author noted in advising writers against the use of quickly dated slang: "Slang is trendy. Last year every young person I knew was saying 'Talk to the hand'. Now no one even remembers "Talk to the hand'".[3]

Lynne Truss, noted for writing the bestselling Eats, Shoots & Leaves, used the phrase as the title and prime example in her 2006 book, Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today.[4]

Notable uses in popular culture[edit]

  • The phrase is used in the movie Beautician and the Beast (1997). Boris Pochenko (Dalton) jokes with his Prime Minister and staff telling them about the phrase and Joy Miller (Fran Drescher) use it then when she does not want to speak to someone.[5]
  • In the second Austin Powers film, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999), Dr. Evil says "Talk to the hand, 'cause the face don't wanna hear it anymore."
  • The phrase is commonly used as a catchphrase of Dogbert in Dilbert, particularly in the television series (1999-2000).
  • The episode "Wild Barts Can't Be Broken" of The Simpsons (1999) included a reference to a fake sitcom—"'Talk to the Hand,' starring David Faustino".
  • In 2001, British R&B girl group Honeyz released the single "Talk to the Hand".
  • The gesture was used in the movie Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003), where the male stripper in the opening scene used this gesture as a dismissal towards the T-850 Terminator when the Terminator demanded the dancer's clothes.[6] This gesture was then used by the Terminator himself when a gas station clerk asked him if he was going to pay for all the snacks that the Terminator walks out with.
  • This connection was referenced to e.g. in Ultimate Comics: Avengers #1 (2009), when Captain America used this phrase and Nick Fury noted that the Captain was addicted to Daytime TV.
  • In the 2003 musical Jerry Springer: The Opera, there is a song about the gesture in act 1 named "Talk to the Hand".
  • A 2011 Coca Cola radio commercial features a talking iPhone app telling the phone's owner to "talk to the hand," to which the owner replies "No one says that anymore."
  • Phrase is extensively used in Comedy nights with kapil by Palak against Kapil Sharma
  • "Talk to the Hand", is 6x11 episode of Dexter aired December 11, 2011
  • "8 Simple Rules" episode 1xs16 John Ritter's character Paul uses the phrase to get rid of his daughter's boyfriend, to which she replies "No one does that anymore, that's lame"
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Spy Buddies", Mr. Krabs spoofs the quote to Plankton as "Tell it to the claw, sister!"
  • In a Phineas and Ferb episode called Nerdy Dancing, Doofenshmirtz boasts to his rival Rodney about being a better dancer. In reply Rodney holds up his hand telling him to talk to his hand. Doofenshmirtz literally does so, making hurtful insults enough that Rodney gets so offended at Doofenshmirtz for talking to his hand like that. Later when Rodney and Doofenshmirtz get into an argument, Doofenshmirtz asks Rodney if he has to talk to his hand again & Rodney refuses.
  • In the 2 Broke Girls episode "...And the 90's Horse Party", Han Lee wears a t-shirt with the phrase 'Talk to the Han!' a play on the popular saying and the characters name.
  • In the movie Ali G Indahouse, the introductory scene shows the protagonist Ali G telling a Spanish gangster to "Talk to the hand. Cause the face, it ain't listening"

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tyrone Mobley (30 June 2004). Victims Of The Game: The Manipulation. AuthorHouse. pp. 49–50. ISBN 978-1-4184-4686-4. Retrieved 3 January 2013. "Just look at the contribution giving by Martin Lawrence, remember 'TALK TO THE HAND,' whether or not he created is not important, what is important, is that he perpetuated it to the Black masses as cool and righteous behavior. This little gesture is something that most negative minded Black woman and now a lot of men have incorporated into their communication system because they think its cute." 
  2. ^ "Slanguage", Indianapolis Monthly (Emmis Communications) 18 (14), August 1995: 24, ISSN 08990328, retrieved 3 January 2013 
  3. ^ Jack Rawlins, The Writer's Way (2001), p. 66.
  4. ^ Lynne Truss, Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today, Or Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door (2006).
  5. ^ Timothy Dalton: Review of Beautician and the Beast, 1997 at in the version of 1997-10-15
  6. ^ Richard Brown, Kevin S. Decker, Terminator and Philosophy: I'll Be Back, Therefore I Am (2009), p. 181.