Thursday, August 24, 2006

Walkin' the Walk

Tim: What do you call it when someone repeats the same word, but with a shift in the part of speech? I’m thinking of she knows how to walk the walk.

This is a figure of speech called ploce. The general consensus is that the phrase arose in the African-American community; particularly, it was a feature of a preaching style.

That preachers would have been attracted to this device is no surprise. We find it in Timothy 6.12: “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.”

In the 1950s, I used to listen to a Chicago R & B station that featured a DJ named Al Benson. One of his steady advertisers was Pekin Cleaners, and Al's tag line was, "You gotta walk that walk and talk that talk and give it to me straight, 'cause if you ain't Pekinized, you ain't rekanized."

I think it may simply be an accident of juxtaposition, but Mark Twain used “talk the talk” sequence:

"I know several other trades and the argot that goes with them; and whenever a person tries to talk the talk peculiar to any of them without having learned it at its source I can trap him always before he gets far on his road."
What Is Man? And Other Essays (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1917) 338

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