Sunday, April 5, 2009

25 Random Things About Gossip

1. The word "gossip" comes from the Old English godsibb "godparent," from God + sibb "relative". Extended in M.E. to "any familiar acquaintance" (1362), especially to woman friends invited to attend a birth, later to "anyone engaging in familiar or idle talk" (1566). The verb meaning "to talk idly about the affairs of others" dates from 1627.

2. According to the Folklore Encyclopedia, "gossip is a speech act in which people make sense of their world by providing a charter for belief in the moral character of known social actors. Unlike rumor or other forms of hearsay, most gossip is not assumed to be false; rather, its defining feature is that its target is not present while moral judgments are made."

3. Gossip Girl is a wildly popular series of novels for teenagers created by Cecily von Ziegesar, which has been adapted into a hit TV series. Feminist Naomi Wolf has called the books "corruption with a cute overlay," claiming their frank sexuality is "blasé and entirely commodified." The audience doesn't really seem to mind.

4. In 2006, leading Islamic clerics in Indonesia forbade Muslims from watching, making or broadcasting television gossip shows, warning: “The Koran strongly forbids any gossip-related activities and [gossiping] people could end up in hell."

5. This scene over the west door of the Church of St. Foy in Conques, France depicts a gossip having his tongue removed by a demon in Hell...

6. According to the Old Testament, when Miriam the Prophetess and Moses's brother Aaron "spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married" God punished Miriam with leprosy.

7. According to evolutionary psychologists, gossip fosters a sense of community with shared interests and information, builds structures of social accountability, furthers mutual social grooming, and provides a mating tool that allows women to mutually identify socially desirable men.

8. In 2006, Don't Date Him Girl,a website that "allows women to post trashy stuff about men they think have cheated on them, as a warning to other women," was sued by Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney Todd Hollis, who had been profiled on the site. One woman wrote that he had herpes, another alleged he was gay. The lawsuit was dismissed in Pennsylvania for a lack of jurisdiction. A second lawsuit filed in federal court in Florida was dismissed after both parties reached an agreement.

9. Lisa Schwappach-Shirriff, curator of San Jose, California's Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, recently uncovered a tablet containing the first-known instance of gay gossip: a 5,000-year-old text describing an unidentified king often visiting the home of one of his generals at night. Schwappach-Shirriff says the repeated use of the phrase "in whose home there was no wife" suggests the king was having a gay affair.

10. Peter Vajda, Ph.D, C.P.C., founding partner of SpiritHeart, an Atlanta-based company that supports conscious living through coaching, counseling and facilitating, identifies gossip as a form of workplace violence, noting that it is "essentially a form of attack."

11. A study by the Institute of Health Sciences in the UK found that "organisational change in its many manifestations provides a trigger for gossip," and that "gossip is used as a sensemaking strategy, a way of communicating and managing emotion, a mechanism for coping with uncertainty, and a means of sabotage and resistance."

12. Andrew Jackson maintained that gossip killed his wife Rachel.

13. "Careless Whisper" is a 1984 single by Wham! It reached number one in nearly twenty-five countries, selling over six million copies worldwide, ranking as one of the most successful songs of the 1980s. In 2006 it was voted sixth-favorite break-up song in Britain. It has been covered by Bananarama, Kenny G, the Boston Pops Orchestra, Delight, Farhad Besharati, Gloria Gaynor, Julio Iglesias, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Slinkee Minx, The Shadows, Pedro Fernandez (whose Spanish cover version is called "Absurda Confidencia"), Seether, and Barry Manilow, among legions of others.

14. The Gossip (who have also covered "Careless Whisper") are a three-piece American indie rock band from Olympia Washington. Their 2006 album Standing in the Way of Control went Gold in the UK.

15. Perez Hilton's real name is Mario Armando Lavandeira, Jr.

16. Liz Smith, the legendary gossip columnist who was fired from the New York Post in February, recently complained to CNN's Howard Kurtz: "I think the real problem is that there is no control on the way people gossip now. There are no editors, publishers, lawyers aren't -- the Internet is just wild. So these kids who are running or Perez Hilton, they are very clever and they deserve a lot of credit for making fabulous careers for themselves. But I don't believe a word any of them write."

17. The introduction of the "grapevine telegraph" in the mid-1840s gave Americans a more efficient way to gossip. Booker T. Washington marveled at how rapidly slaves in the South got news about the abolition movement, Lincoln's campaign for the presidency, and the Civil War through the "grape-vine telegraph."

18. On July 12, 1998, Michael Kinsley, then the editor of Slate, sent a private email to friends and colleagues titled "My Career as Editor of The New Yorker," wherein he "laid out in embarrassing detail a meeting with The New Yorker's owner, Si Newhouse, who eventually chose Kinsley's rival David Remnick to succeed Tina Brown. Within a few days the letter had been read by almost every journalist in America." As Alex Beam recounts, "it was one of the first recorded instances of viral gossip with e-mail as the vector."

19., described as "gossip 2.0" by its creator, and as a "virtual bathroom wall for abusive, degrading, and hateful speech" by representatives of Pepperdine University's student body that sought, unsuccessfully, to have it blocked, was a website launched in 2007, devoted to anonymous gossip, rumors, and rants posted by students about students at over 500 college campuses. In 2008 Google removed JuicyCampus from its advertising network due to "excessive profanity." The site ceased operations in February 2009. Several lawsuits involving claims of defamation, harassment, and assault, are pending.

20. According to research, gossip accounts for up to 80 per cent of our conversation.

21. The caquetoire, or "gossip chair", became popular in late sixteenth century Europe. Wide in the front, and narrowed at the back, it was designed to accommodate women's voluminous farthingale skirts, which were too cumbersome for regular chairs.

22. One recent study found that men spend an average of 76 minutes a day chatting with friends or co-workers, compared to just 52 minutes for women. Hot topics for men include drunken friends' antics, old school pals and the most attractive girl at work. Women are more likely to complain about other females or their friends gaining weight.

23. It is a widely held belief that Paul Burrell, Diana, Princess of Wales's former butler, blew his chances of being crowned King of the Jungle on Britain's I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! by "waffling on" about his former boss.

24. Campaign Gossip amongst the Washington Press Corps had it that Obama's airplane was "cramped, uncomfortable and smells terrible most of the time."

25. “The only thing worse than being talked about," as Oscar Wilde once said, "is not being talked about.”

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