February 07, 2013

“Talk to the hand!”


If you’re not a fan of actress Fran Drescher or cutesy romantic comedies, you may have avoided seeing Drescher’s 1997 rom-com The Beautician and the Beast.

But it’s unlikely that you’ve avoided awareness of the movie’s catchphrase: “Talk to the hand!”

The line is repeated several times in the film, initially by Drescher, then by her co-star Timothy Dalton.

That use helped launch “talk to the hand” (and the upraised-hand gesture and head turn that go with it) into widespread use, as a way of telling someone “I don’t want to hear what you have to say.”

It’s also the most noted and notable thing about the movie, which was released in the U.S. on February 7, 1997.

The heavily-aired trailer for the movie helped promote the catchphrase. It was used twice in that, once by Drescher and once by Dalton.

Of course, the scriptwriter of Drescher’s movie (Todd Graff) didn’t actually coin “talk to the hand.”

As mentioned on many websites, it had previously been used by the African-American actor and comedian Martin Lawrence in his TV series Martin, which aired on the Fox network from 1992 to 1997.

Lawrence is often credited with coining the phrase. A few sources credit comedian Joan Rivers. My guess is that it was street slang before any celebrities used it.

“Talk to the hand” is the short version of several longer variations that were floating around in African-American circles in the early 1990s and possibly before that. Quips like:

      “Talk to the hand, ‘cause the face ain’t listening”

       “Talk to the hand, ‘cause the face don’t want to hear it”

       “Talk to the hand, ‘cause the face don’t understand.”

Like many idioms, “talk to the hand” soon migrated from black culture into the vernacular of both Hollywood celebrities and white teens.

By the time The Beautician and the Beast was released in 1997, a now-defunct teen clothing company called Stickworld was already selling T-shirts emblazoned with “Talk to the hand!” (and other current teen slang phrases) at Sears and JC Penney.

However, for better or worse, The Beautician and the Beast deserves a good share of the credit for making the phrase part of mainstream American culture.

Within weeks after the movie was released, most people — including otherwise unhip white moms and dads — knew the “talk to the hand” line and hand gesture, even if only from seeing the movie trailer or hearing or reading the line repeated by someone else who knew about the movie.

As often happens with some idioms, broad awareness led to overuse. Eventually “talk to the hand” became passé, unhip and annoying.

It’s not heard much today.

And, The Beautician and the Beast is little remembered — except as the movie that had that irritating catchphrase: “Talk to the hand!”

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