Does that literally mean 'a talk about books'?

Here is where I saw that word.

Whatever he feels, he can put into language. And no mere commonplace language, either, but out-and-out book talk - and bristling with metaphor, too- just bristling!

  • This is the speech of a "hick" or "hayseed" (except for the "bristling with metaphor" part)
    – TimR
    Jul 28, 2015 at 9:56

2 Answers 2


The source of this quote is Mark Twain's short story "Jim Baker's Blue-Jay Yarn", published in his 1880 collection A Tramp Abroad. (For future reference, whenever you give a quote, you should always include the source where it came from - this often helps give useful context.)

In this context, I would interpret "book talk" as meaning "talk of the sort that can be found in books". In other words, formal and well-composed speech, as opposed to casual chatter ("commonplace language").

A similar construction is "book learning", meaning formal education, as opposed to natural intelligence. This phrase is old-fashioned and is stereotypically used by uneducated people.

The speaker of this quote is Jim Baker, "a middle-aged, simple-hearted miner", who is probably intended to fit that stereotype. The use of "talk" as a noun to mean "speech" is probably also intended to be typical of rural dialects.


The passage is from A Tramp Abroad. Mark Twain is describing the eloquence and fluency of bluejays.

In this context it means language of high quality, as good as that which is published in books.


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