Gossip!Yes, gossip is universal. In some languages, it
may have an outright negative connotation but in English, it
basically means ‘idle talk’, chat about trivial things or matters.
When moderate and kind, ‘casual talk’ may serve to exchange
useful information as a means of updating one’s knowledge.
The whole neighborhood may grow gossipy with who got
married, pregnant, died, or it may just be a humorous chitchat
devoid of malicious intent.
However, idle talk more often than not, degenerates
beyond the bounds of propriety and good taste. Facts get
embellished, exaggerated or deliberately distorted. Humiliation
is made the source of humour, privacy is violated, confidences
betrayed and reputations injured or ruined. Condemnation takes
the place of commendation, murmuring and fault finding are
extolled. The end result is like the mud thrown on a clean piece
ofwhite cloth. It does not stick but it leaves a dirty and sometimes
permanent stain behind.
Gossip has been blamed for sleepless nights, heartache
and indigestion. Certainly, it must have caused you some
personal anguish at one time or the other, that is someonemust
at some time have tried getting a knife between your shoulder
blades. Negative gossip is almost universally frowned upon.
Among the Indians in the United States, gossiping about
someone is classified with lying and stealing.Among theYoruba
ofNigeria, the tale bearer is detested and often avoided. Indeed,
throughout history, measures have been taken to curb this
‘deadly’ disease. Between the 15th and 18th centuries, the ducking
stool was popularly used in England and Germany and later in
the United States.
The gossip was tied to a chair and repeatedly ducked
in water. In modern times, the war against gossiping has also
been fought. Rumour control centres have been established to
respond to rumours that were potentially harmful to government
activities. Laws have even passed to curb gossip. Nicknames
have been given to those who peddle the trade. Ever heard of
Such efforts notwithstanding, gossip survives. It is
alive and flourishing. Gossip is everywhere. There is
neighbourhood gossip, office gossip. Shop gossip, party gossip,
family gossip and funnily enough religious gossip. Gossip
transcends all cultures, races and civilizations, and it has
flourished and is still flourishing at every level of society. Gossip
is deeply a part of human nature. Yet gossip is not inherently
evil. There is a positive side to casual talk. Knowing where to
drawthe line between harmless and harmful gossip is the key to
avoiding victimizing others and being a victim yourself.
Gossip appeals to people because
‘Grow gossipy’ as used in the passage, means the area