What is gossip?
A Webster definition says it is “a casual or unconstrained conversation or report about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed to be true.”
The Free Dictionary adds another dimension when it defines it as a rumor or talk of a personal, sensational or intimate nature.
Other interpretations get right to the heart of the matter. Gossip is information about the behavior of other people and discussing private details of their personal lives.
A gossip (er) is someone who habitually reveals provocative facts about others often titillating enough to grab attention, with the intent of building himself up and making them look bad; speaks about their faults and failures, and whispers about embarrassing and shameful events of their lives, pretending to mean no harm.
To think that the word “gossip” comes from the old English “God-sib,” which stood for godmother. Go figure.
I know people who talk about things told to them in confidence just to show how “close” they are to the person in question. Ridiculous!
Get a life
“Idle hands,” they say, “are the devil’s workshop.”
In the Bible, Paul tells Timothy that idleness leads people to sin.
“They get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to.”
Does this not describe your typical chismoso or chismosa?
American poet Robert Frost said, “Half the world is composed of people who have something to say but can’t and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it.”
Was he right? Do we gossip for lack of anything better to do?
Did you know that gossip is not just about spreading false rumors? The story could be nothing but the truth. But the act of repeating it, maybe even elaborating on it, is still gossip.
I remember a game we used to play when we were young. A story would be told by one player for another one to pass on. It was interesting how the story took on a life of its own as it passed from one player to the next. Some details were dropped, forgotten; others invented, embellished. The more players there were, the more changes in the tale. By the time it got back to the origin, it was not the same story anymore. And so it is with gossip.
The other day I came across a video of Monica Lewinsky. Remember her?
Sixteen years ago she was headline news. She was fodder for tabloids, breaking news on television; the subject of mockery and distasteful jokes in talk shows around the world, especially in the United States.
There was no social media then. But even without Facebook or Twitter and despite super slow Internet services at the time, Monica Lewinsky went viral, so to speak—from being an unknown intern in the White House to becoming the world-infamous First Femme Fatale; gaining celebrity status along the (wrong) way and becoming a household name.
In the video she is speaking at a Forbes Under 30 gathering, trying to make a pitch against cyber bullying.
Some political pundits have commented that Lewinsky came out of “retirement” at the prodding of the Forbes group, to refresh the public’s memory and put a harmless-looking stumbling block for Hillary Clinton who seems ready to run for President of the US in 2016. Don’t you just love politics?
Lewinsky’s speech was candid but measured. Careful.
She was moved, she said, by the suicide of a teenage boy who suffered from cyber bullying. She remembers how at one point she, too, wished to die.
“Having survived myself, what I want to do now is help other victims of the shame-game survive, too. I want to put my suffering to good use and give purpose to my past.” Good for you!
Have you been the victim of gossip? I have. OK, I had it coming to me. Still, no one has the right to add fuel to the fire. And I had a five-alarm conflagration! Deserved or not, it hurt. It made enemies of once close friends.
It does no one any good.
The truth is we have been gossips ourselves, as well. Come on, admit it. I have friends who salivate over “dishing the dirt.”
Some of us are deliberately armed with disclaimers. As if that would lessen the guilt.
Let’s listen in.
“I love him dearly, and I would not say anything to hurt him. But I know he passed the bad checks. He told me. He meant to make them good, but ran out of time.”
“I don’t blame her. I’m sure you know that her husband is no saint either!”
“Of course she’s overweight. I hear he has all kinds of ‘young chickadees’ lined up when he travels. So she takes it out on chocolates.”
Gossip has irreparable consequences, not the least of which are broken relationships. A breach of confidence between friends is brutally painful. Betrayal is hard to forgive. Trust is impossible to restore.
So stop it already! Next time you have news too juicy to keep to yourself, remember the words of American humorist John Billings:
“The best time for you to hold your tongue is the time you feel you must say something or bust.”