What does the phrase “I want to talk to you man to man” mean?
Growing up in Nebraska, it always meant you wanted to have a discussion about a woman.
In New Jersey, I recently discovered “I want to talk to you man to man” means you want to fight. I was lucky I used that phrase with a friend who waited to have the discussion first before telling me he thought I wanted to beat him up.
In Nebraska that phrase is subtle and quiet while in New Jersey it is an indicator of the violence to come.
Have you ever used the “I want to talk to you man to man” phrase before? If so, in what instances was it forged and do you find that phrase has different meanings in different social or regional circumstances?


  1. mainly growing up on farmland in Kansas but i’m in arizona now where don’t really use that phrase much around here

  2. RuKsaK!
    I agree the phrase has serious undertones and the ensuing conversation is usually never light or fun. It is probably better, as you suggest, to have that kind of discussion without that heavy preamble.

  3. I’ve always seen it used where I live now (Texas) in the “son, I have some advice on being an adult to give you” sense. I never heard it used in New York, where I used to live, really.

  4. That’s an interesting take on the phrase, Irene — the South and Midwest have a perhaps more “manly” feel for it while in New York and New Jersey there isn’t much use for it or it is misunderstood…

  5. Hilarious, Dave! Love it!
    As well, I unfortunately I know the curse of both “man to man” and “we need to talk” and even spinning them against each other where a man would say to a woman “let’s talk man to man” and a man would say to another man “we need to talk” doesn’t lessen the dread or quiet the weeping laughter!

  6. I’m originally from NJ and I can’t say I’ve ever thought this meant a fight was coming although I did hear it LOTS growing up there. I’ve heard the expression in lots of places and have always taken it to mean that someone wanted to have an open, honest talk with no BS. Or in other words, that’s how men talk, not boys.

  7. Hi Helen!
    Thanks for your perspective on New Jersey. I like it that your experience with the phrase demonstrates the need for a serious tone and it does not necessarily intend a bodily threat.

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