Saturday, September 24, 2011

Starting with Gossip

Starting with Gossip

I have hopes of taking the proverbial high road with this blog. I’ll be writing about
quotes, intriguing etymologies, remarkable usage, downright strange words, and other topics that might tickle the fancy of fellow wordmongers.

In my attempt to avoid gossip, I’ve decided to start with gossip.

The word gossip comes from the Old English godsibb, a combination of god and sibb, the first part meaning, well, God, and the latter meaning relative, sibling, or sponsor. So in the 1300s a gossip was something akin to a godparent. Once the 1400s rolled around, the meaning referred mostly to the women who gathered together to attend a birth. Either birthing wasn’t the only thing going on among such women, or some cranky spouse who didn’t care for his wife’s friends threw some misogyny into the mix, as by the 1500s the word referred to anyone involved in “idle talk.” It wasn’t until the 1600s that the noun became verbified to refer to the talk itself more than the speakers. The meaning got uglier still in the1800s, when the definition began to include “groundless rumor.”

Over a hundred years after that, Truman Capote, target of gossip and downright literate guy, wrote, “…all literature is gossip.”

So there, I’ve got all the gossip out of my system.

Thanks to this week’s sources: the OED,, wordreference,com, &


  1. Charlie, yea, yea, and another yea, for the launch of your blog. I really like it! I really like the topic. Believe me, I'll be stopping by to learn about words. I, too, enjoy the origin of words and how they evolved over the centuries.

    I've learned that just reading the Bible isn't enough. We must study the words to know what God meant by their meaning when he wrote his Word. So that's where my hunger comes from to know the evolution of words.

    Great job!


  2. I did not know this. Even though I had parents who often brought the OED to the dinner table to explain to us how we were mis-using words.

    You are providing a great service here, Mr. Perryess. Fascinating stuff.

  3. Great post.

    As a translator and language learning consultant (and now writer), words are my life. I love them. Fascinating when you try to carry them over to other languages, since the words often to do not make the journey (the meaning does). Etymology is a fun study. Too many make the mistake of reading the original meaning into the modern. So good job on giving us the time line without trying to squeeze the senses of "God" or "sibling" into the meaning of the current usage.

    I'm going to subscribe here and look forward to future posts!

    @Anne, thanks for the heads-up tweet about this blog.


  4. Hi JeanAnn, Anne & Bill,
    Thanks so much for coming by, & double-thanks to Anne for the Tweet.
    I have hopes of seeing you here often.
    All the best,