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Sometimes, "to sell saliva" (literally translated) to mean to make money by just using his/her talking skills, normally with a negative meaning. It often used to refer to middlemen.

Say you go to Japan and setup a business there but you don't speak Japanese. So, you ask a Japanese friend to convince Japanese customers to buy your service/products.

Can you to the Japanese friend "you just make money selling your saliva. It's not a hard job"?

In other situations, it carries a negative meaning. A company has engineers and marketers. Engineers create products but make less money than marketers For example, "he makes more money than any engineer in my company by just selling his saliva"

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    It's not an English idiom.
    – TimR
    Commented May 11 at 13:23
  • I’ve never heard the idiom. Where have you encountered it? Commented May 11 at 13:28
  • @PaulTanenbaum, I translated it from Vietnamese to English
    – Tom
    Commented May 11 at 14:28
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    @MichaelHarvey, and making money by just using your convincing / marketing verbal skills is smelly. God doesn't like it.
    – Tom
    Commented May 12 at 7:18
  • 1
    @MichaelHarvey, I hate that too. These people want to raise germs in the milk.
    – Tom
    Commented May 13 at 3:03

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Unlike some other proverbs and idioms, this one doesn't translate well. In English, saliva is not particular associated with talking. It is associated with eating "He salivated at the sight of the steak". Or by extension "He salivated at the sight of the beautiful girl". There is something brutish about this. Saliva and spit are produced when we see something delicious, but are themselves disgusting.

So "selling saliva" would not suggest using talking skills. A nice high-class word to use is "eloquence" or "eloquent". "He makes more money than any engineer in my company by just being eloquent"

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