Wednesday, April 28, 2010


I've spent a lot of time teaching Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and amongst the many phrases and speeches that now inhabit my mind is Capulet's stinging put-down of the Nurse: "Smatter with your gossips, go!"
Gossipping is a universal human trait, isn't it? It's the core of TV soaps and probably the very root of story-telling in its most basic form.
But the word gossip derives (like gospel) from Christian associations: it was originally godsibbs, i.e., godparents. Because godparents looked out for your welfare and often told stories about you (especially when you were still a babe), the word came to be connected with friends and acquaintances and the stories that they tell about the people they know. Add a little bit of morphing with the spelling, and there you have it--our modern gossip.

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