When someone makes a comment that “money talks”, the idiom is usually referring to a situation where the use of financial resources helps to pave the way for a desired action or ending to occur. At its heart, the use of this saying indicates that when other methods fail, offering cash to someone who is in a position to accomplish this desired end will ensure the proper outcome. While the exact verbiage may vary somewhat, there are a number of idioms that convey the same sentiment.
The origin of “money talks” is a matter of some controversy among linguists and folklorists. Many believe that the money talks idiom has its roots in the American culture of the 19th century, although the general sentiment behind the phrase goes back for centuries. Others believe that idioms within this family more rightly can be attributed to medieval England, and had to do with the use of money and power to annex surrounding estates, often by promising villagers in the area that the standard of living would improve significantly under a new landowner.
Regardless of the origins, there is no doubt that “money talks” continues to be utilized extensively in modern society. These sayings often focus on the ability of rich people to circumvent the usual channels in order to gain access to various goods and services. For example, someone who is willing to discreetly slip a gratuity to the right individual can often wait less time for a table in a restaurant, move to the head of the line at a nightclub, or gain access to any number of other services that increase personal satisfaction.
While the use of "money talks" is often done tongue in cheek and possibly with a small amount of amusement, there are also times when the use of this idiom carries negative connotations. This is particularly true where there is suspicion that money was used to predetermine the outcome of a political election, help someone avoid going to prison for a crime committed, or to keep some type of public scandal from coming to light.
One of the reasons that “money talks" is such a widely used phrase or idiom is that it perfectly describes the situation of tapping into the greed of another person in order to satisfy a personal want or need. This phenomenon is found in every culture and is common enough for everyone to understand what is meant when the words “money talks” are uttered.