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What Does "Money Talks" Mean?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 27 September 2014
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When someone makes a comment that “money talks”, the idiom is usually referring to a situation where the use of financial resources helps to pave the way for a desired action or ending to occur. At its heart, the use of this saying indicates that when other methods fail, offering cash to someone who is in a position to accomplish this desired end will ensure the proper outcome. While the exact verbiage may vary somewhat, there are a number of idioms that convey the same sentiment.

The origin of “money talks” is a matter of some controversy among linguists and folklorists. Many believe that the money talks idiom has its roots in the American culture of the 19th century, although the general sentiment behind the phrase goes back for centuries. Others believe that idioms within this family more rightly can be attributed to medieval England, and had to do with the use of money and power to annex surrounding estates, often by promising villagers in the area that the standard of living would improve significantly under a new landowner.

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Regardless of the origins, there is no doubt that “money talks” continues to be utilized extensively in modern society. These sayings often focus on the ability of rich people to circumvent the usual channels in order to gain access to various goods and services. For example, someone who is willing to discreetly slip a gratuity to the right individual can often wait less time for a table in a restaurant, move to the head of the line at a nightclub, or gain access to any number of other services that increase personal satisfaction.

While the use of "money talks" is often done tongue in cheek and possibly with a small amount of amusement, there are also times when the use of this idiom carries negative connotations. This is particularly true where there is suspicion that money was used to predetermine the outcome of a political election, help someone avoid going to prison for a crime committed, or to keep some type of public scandal from coming to light.

One of the reasons that “money talks" is such a widely used phrase or idiom is that it perfectly describes the situation of tapping into the greed of another person in order to satisfy a personal want or need. This phenomenon is found in every culture and is common enough for everyone to understand what is meant when the words “money talks” are uttered.

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anon182136
Post 4

Personally, I think the origin is somewhere in the Minnesota area or maybe near Seattle where folks of Scandenavian descent say "manga taks" as in "many thanks". Imagine a waitress picking up a tip and saying "manga taks". A non-Scandenavian might easily mis-hear that and believe it is a comment on what ensures good service (money talks).

Just a thought.

DentalFloss
Post 3

@behaviourism, I have also seen that in the United States. While it seems like the idea of "money talks" might be a good thing, the problem is that it often talks even if you aren't trying to say anything. People will see you, and think you can provide for them, make demands, and the money that seemed helpful actually hurts you.

behaviourism
Post 2

The sad part is that in some parts of the world, the situations people think of when they say "money talks" still go on. Things like government situations, shopping, transportation, and anything else are still very much a part of culture. In some parts of Europe, for example, especially if people know you're American, they expect tips for everything and sometimes will refuse service places until you offer money.

anon51900
Post 1

A common use of this in America is the full phrase "Money talks, bulls**t walks."

This phrase is uttered in tough negotiating situations where the seller does not trust the buyer.

You will frequently see this used in movies, but it's pretty rare in real life.

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