The phrase "Talking through his hat"

Where does it come from? I’ve always assumed it was from the founder of Mormonism’s practice of, well, talking through his hat - but that’s just a guess, and I can’t seem to find any real cites for it.

So, has anyone here heard of a likely origin?

And, if so, how do we know if it first went through a hat? :dubious: I’m not sure what a “real cite” is, but The Word Detective has “talking through one’s hat” as “unclear”. Hat size may vary.

Earliest cite in OED is this one, which ties in with Word Detective’s statement that it was already an established usage in the late 1880s (in fact it’s in all likelihood the grounds for that statement.)

Interesting that it’s in dialect, which could point to a dialectical origin for the phrase, African-American perhaps. But then it equally as well might not, one can’t read too much into a single cite.

IIRC, the recordings we have of the last generation of slaves in America suggests that AAVE as we know it today, including its phonetic elements, didn’t evolve into its current form until well after the Civil War. The recording(s?) I remember listening to sounded much closer to a modern white Southerner than a speaker of AAVE of any race.

Since it looks like the official answer is “unclear” I’ll offer up what I have been told:

The term originated with Vaudeville, where they would occasionally hold up a hat to simulate kissing without actually doing it (in an age where that would have been inappropriate). Any dialogue at that point in the show would have been harder or impossible to understand.

Again, just what I’ve been told, but the timing seems to fit with the earliest cite from the 1880’s.

The phrase has been updated in recent years. Deception on the internet is “talking through your @.:wink: