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Talking through his hat

Posted by Bruce Kahl on April 19, 2005

In Reply to: Talking through his hat posted by Bill Bushey on April 19, 2005

: There is a phrase "He's talking through his hat" that was on an archived page. The discussion about that phrase did not mention an origin; only that it means to talk nonsense. I recently came across a bio of Joseph Smith who was the founder of Mormonism. The bio stated that the Book of Mormon was transcribed by his wife while Joseph Smith translated the golden tablets from New Egyptian. While he was translating, he covered his face with his hat for some reason. Is it possible that this incident is the origin of "talking through your hat?"

"To talk through one's hat" was apparently a widespread idiom by the late 1880s meaning "to talk nonsense," although it initially seems to have carried the added connotation of "to lie." The precise logic and origins of the phrase are unclear. One theory, perhaps reflecting the earlier "to lie" meaning, maintains that the phrase refers to men in church who hold their hats over their faces while feigning prayer. Another possibility is that the phrase refers to the emptiness of the hat atop one's head, as if one were thinking and speaking with an empty head. It's also possible that "talk through one's hat" is an oblique reference to another phrase, "to talk off the top of one's head," meaning to speak speculatively, without thorough consideration."