Gossip is idle talk or rumour, especially about the personal or private affairs of others; the act is also known as dishing or tattling.
The word is from Old English “godsibb“, from “god” and “sibb”, the term for the godparents of one’s child or the parents of one’s godchild, generally very close friends. In the 16th century, the word assumed the meaning of a person, mostly a woman, one who delights in idle talk, a newsmonger, a tattler. In the early 19th century, the term was extended from the talker to the conversation of such persons. The verb to gossip, meaning “to be a gossip”, first appears in Shakespeare.
The term originates from the bedroom at the time of childbirth. Giving birth used to be a social event exclusively attended by women. The pregnant woman’s female relatives and neighbours would congregate and idly converse. Over time, gossip came to mean talk of others.
Peter Vajda identifies gossip as a form of workplace violence, noting that it is “essentially a form of attack.” It is thought by many to “empower one person while disempowering another” (Hafen). Accordingly, many companies have formal policies in their employee handbooks against it. Sometimes there is room for disagreement on exactly what constitutes unacceptable tattle, since workplace gossip may take the form of offhand remarks about someone’s tendencies such as “He always takes a long lunch,” or “Don’t worry, that’s just how she is”.
TLK Healthcare cites as an example of gossip a tattletale “to the boss without intention of furthering a solution or speaking to co-workers about something someone else has done to upset us.” Corporate email can be a particularly dangerous method of gossip delivery, as the medium is semi-permanent and messages are easily forwarded to unintended recipients; accordingly, a Mass High Tech article advised employers to instruct employees against using company email networks for gossip. Low self-esteem and a desire to “fit in” are frequently cited as motivations for workplace gossip.
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