Speaking of Speaking to…

“I’d be happy to speak to that topic in a moment,” he said.

“I’d be happy if you spoke about it,” I replied.

I don’t like this parvenu expression “speak to” when its meaning is “speak about.” It feels condescending. And there’s a reason for that. All of the sources I checked agree that if there is a difference between the two – speak to a subject and speak about a subject –  it is that the former implies that the speech will be unanswered. That the hearer’s job is to shut up and listen. There is also a connotation of certainty of knowledge –  i.e., that when you speak to a subject you are speaking as an authority; whereas when you speak about a subject, you are just giving your thoughts.

I may not like it, but “speak to” in this sense is gaining a foothold on the language, particularly among people with college degrees. (Another reason to dislike it.) A Google search of this use of the phrase shows a big upswing lately, but it was virtually unheard of prior to 1990.