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"talking shop"

Posted by Bruce Kahl on August 05, 2005

In Reply to: "Talking shop" posted by Smokey Stover on August 05, 2005

: : : : : : Where does the term "talking shop" come from and how did it become so perjorative?

: : : : : When people "talk shop" they are usually co-workers who could be at lunch together and start talking about the job.

: : : : : This talking shop may or not be pejorative. It can sometimes help blow off steam to share with each other.

: : : : And has expanded its range of meaning to include any people talking about business or professional affairs rather than merely socializing--talking about affairs rather than having them, in some cases. "I saw you having coffee with Nurse Nancy in the hospital lounge." "We were talking shop. We have a difficult patient." Or: "Did you have a relaxing time out on the fairway with Ambassador Grushenko?" "Actually, we went there to talk shop." SS

: : : "Talking shop" is used pejoratively when people start talking business at what's supposed to be a non-business event, like a family dinner or a child's birthday party. Traditionally it's a wife or mother who scolds male family members for talking shop in those situations.

: : "Shop" was one of the three subjects of conversation traditionally utterly forbidden in British Army officers' messes. (The other two were religion, and named ladies - that is, you could talk about women in general, but not any specifically identifiable woman.) "Talking shop" in the mess was punishable by a fine, often a bottle of port to be drunk by the company. Did the US Aarmy have any similar tradition?

: Sometimes silence speaks volumes. I may be wrong, but I suspect that the American male contributors to Phrase Finders are not officer corps material, or weren't in the last war or two around. In any case, what we on the outside (I had a medical deferment) know about American military officers suggests that such a code as you suggest would be alien to American military traditions. But what do I know? SS

Having spent some time in a rain forest near the Cambodian / Vietnamese border toiling as an officer for the US forces in the late 60s I can say I never heard of any tradition that sounds like anything described above.

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