The first time I heard someone say that an event, idea or thing ‘speaks to’ something else, I was horrified and shocked… for a second. Then I felt a warm glow of illicit pleasure. Nice!
If you think words, and the rules about how to use them, should stay the same through thick and thin, I imagine the whole ‘speaks to’ thing sounds very wrong. As someone who sees language as beautifully fluid, something creative that moves with the times, it’s a delight.
Clarity is vital. Arbitrary rules based on old ways of expressing ourselves are not much use. They only hold us back. ‘Speaks to’ could not be clearer.
There’s more. Because ‘speaks to’ fills a yawning gap, it is proving very welcome. I first heard it used in the USA. Now it’s everywhere, used in every English-speaking context, and there’s a good reason why. There isn’t a clear and simple way to express that feeling you get when an incident, idea or thing connects powerfully and logically with another.
Here’s an example. I could say the fact that so many people in the UK are holidaying at home for 2022 speaks to the impact of the pandemic, and to the omni-shambles that is Brexit. Before the arrival of ‘speaks to’, how would I express the idea?
I could say that staycations are more popular because of Brexit and covid. But isn’t that a bit limited and clunky? It isn’t even very accurate. I could say Brexit and covid have led to a hike in the popularity of holidaying here in the UK, but that’s too long-winded. ‘Refers to’ doesn’t really work either. ‘Speaks to’ is a marvellous short cut. It’s expressive, accurate, fast, easy, and clear.
If you’re the type to get your knickers in a twist when someone has the audacity to use a newly-minted word, change the meaning of a word, or throw out archaic grammatical rules, you’ll hate it. But ‘speak to’ is here to stay and personally, I’m sold.
Walk this way for content written the way ordinary people talk. It’s the kind of writing that convinces, sells, is enjoyable to read, and helps customers and prospects understand and trust you. The way I write speaks to that!