Gossip: Nobody claims to like it, but everybody enjoys it

(English reading and vocabulary related to gossip)

Level: B2 to C1

Written and compiled by Benedicte Gravrand, English trainer at The Language House

 

Gossip is informal conversation about other people’s private affairs. It’s like the news, but on a micro-level; news about your friends, your friends’ friends, your family, celebrities, your colleagues and bosses. Unfortunately, it can also be unkind and not true. Gossiping and lying can often go hand in hand.

We gossip (here “gossip” is a verb) because we need to share information about our community, tell stories, and connect. Gossiping can make us feel important because we have information that we can give to others. 

Who doesn’t like a good gossip? I do it, you do it, most people do it. A study done in the 90s found that men spent 55% and women spent 67% of conversation time gossiping.

Unfortunately, malicious or negative gossip is everywhere.

 

People love gossip. It’s the biggest thing

that keeps the entertainment industry going.

 

Gossip (here “gossip” is an uncountable noun) is not just about rumours, criticism, derision or tabloid-style news; it’s also about sharing information about other people. A recent study found that people gossip 52 minutes a day on average; and most of that gossip is neutral.

Why do we do it? Some believe we started gossiping as soon as we had language.  Frank McAndrew, a psychology professor in Illinois, explains that to succeed in the time of cavemen, we had to know what was happening to the people around us.

“Who is sleeping with whom? Who has power? Who has access to resources? And if you weren’t good at that, you weren’t very successful,” he says. “Sharing gossip with someone is a bonding mechanism,” he adds. “It increases morale.”

 

Check the meaning of the words in bold. See vocabulary exercise below.

 

According to Matthew Feinberg, a professor of organizational behaviour in Toronto, the act of gossiping “helps calm the body,” and can promote cooperation by spreading important information.

He also notes that there are some types of gossip that should be avoided, such as gossip that is purely harmful and serves no greater purpose — like mean comments about someone’s looks. Negative gossiping and complaining can be really bad for your mental health.

Stacy Torres, assistant professor of sociology in California, found that gossip can stave off loneliness, while other studies have found it can help relationship and closeness and serve as a form of entertainment. Celebrity gossip, for example, can be highly entertaining. We see celebrities as ‘socially important’.

“Consciously, you know celebrities don’t matter and you’re not going to meet them, but they press the same buttons in our brains as people who do matter to us,” McAndrew explains.

If you can’t say anything nice,

then don’t say anything at all.

 

Actor Johnny Depp and USA TV host Ellen De Generes, are both the centre of a lot of negative gossip. De Generes said:

“People love gossip. It’s the biggest thing that keeps the entertainment industry going.”

Gossip can be useful to keep good behaviour in check too. For example, if someone lies or steals and people start talking about that person in a negative way, the community understands better the negative consequences of lying and stealing.

But remember: If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.

Sources: Times CNN

 

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Why do we gossip?

 

 

Vocabulary

Match the words with their definition:

  1. News (uncountable noun)
  2. Micro
  3. Average
  4. Resources
  5. Bonding

 

a. extremely small: used with some nouns and adjectives

b. information about recent events that is reported in newspapers or on television or radio

c. (often used in plural form) something such as money, workers, or equipment that can be used to help an institution or a business

d. the development of a special close relationship between people

e. an amount that is calculated by adding several numbers together and dividing the total by the original number of things you added together

 

_________________________

Answer key:

1:b  –  2:a  –  3:e  –  4:c  –  5:d

_________________________

 

  1. Promote
  2. Spread
  3. Harmful
  4. Greater purpose
  5. Mean (adj.)

 

a. a more meaningful (important) reason to live, work, etc.

b. causing harm (injury, damage, or problems)

c. cruel, or unkind

d. to support or encourage something

e. (in this context) if information spreads, it becomes known by more people than before

 

_________________________

Answer key:

6:d  –  7:e  –  8:b  –  9:a  –  10:c

_________________________

 

  1. Stave off
  2. Entertainment
  3. Matter (v.)
  4. Keep (someone/something) in check
  5. Behaviour
  6. Go on about

 

a. to control someone or something that might cause damage or harm

b. performances that people enjoy

c. the way that someone behaves (behave: to do things in a particular way)

d. to stop something from happening

e. to be important

f. to talk for a long time

 

_________________________

Answer key:

11:d  –  12:b  –  13:e  –  14:a  –  15:c  –  16:f

_________________________

 

Definitions from MacmillanDictionary.com

 

Grace VanderWaal – Gossip Girl (with lyrics)

 

 

Idioms and expressions related to gossip:

 

  1. spill the beans

Reveal secret information unintentionally or indiscreetly.

“So who spilled the beans about her affair with David?”

 

  1. dish the dirt

Reveal or spread scandal or malicious gossip.

“He was happy to dish the dirt on his rival”

 

  1. kiss and tell

Recount one’s sexual exploits, especially to the media concerning a famous person.

“This isn’t a kiss-and-tell book”

 

  1. your reputation precedes you

People have heard things about you before they actually meet you.

 

  1. be a blabbermouth

Someone who talks too much and tells secrets.

“You are such a blabbermouth!”

 

  1. let the cat out of the bag

reveal a secret carelessly or by mistake.

“Now that Viola had let the cat out of the bag, she had no option but to confess”

 

  1. keep mum (or stay mum) or mum’s the word

If you keep mum or stay mum about something, you do not tell anyone about it.

“He is keeping mum about his feelings on the matter.”

 

  1. my lips are sealed

Used for saying that you will not tell a secret to anyone else

 

  1. take a secret to the grave

To not reveal a secret for the duration of one’s life.

“My father took the secret to the grave.”

 

  1. Not tell a soul

To not reveal some confidential information to a single other person. Often spoken as a command or a promise.

I heard Greg is getting fired, but don’t tell a soul—I don’t think even he knows yet.”

 

Practise your gossip expressions

Complete the dialogue with the expressions above (make sure to conjugate them if necessary):

 

David: Miranda, have you heard the latest gossip about Antonio Banderas?

Miranda: No, what happened to him? Any juicy gossip?

D: The Daily Mail says he was diagnosed with coronavirus on his 60th birthday.

M: Antonio Banderas is 60?

D: Yeah.

M: What else does The Daily Mail say?

D: Nothing. But The Mirror reveals something about Nicolas Cage. Apparently, he has spent his fortune on islands, cars and zoo animals. He has nothing left.

M: That’s juicy. How much did he spend?

D: $150m.

M: Hmmm…

D: So you have told anyone about our time in the park last month, when I walked around only wearing a swimsuit? You must have l……, somehow. Everyone is talking to me about it.

M: Nope, I have n…….

D: I wonder who s…… about Mark and Jennifer’s affair? It has become common gossip.

M: I think I know who spread the rumour. But m……. I don’t want to d…… on anyone unless l am 100 per cent sure…

D: And have you told anyone about what you caught me doing the other day?

M: No way.

D: So, you are definitively not a b…….

M: So what else are the papers saying?

 

_________________________

Answers:

 

David: Miranda, have you heard the latest gossip about Antonio Banderas?

Miranda: No, what happened to him? Any juicy gossip?

D: The Daily Mail says he was diagnosed with coronavirus on his 60th birthday.

M: Antonio Banderas is 60?

D: Yeah.

M: What else does The Daily Mail say?

D: Nothing. But The Mirror reveals something about Nicolas Cage. Apparently, he has spent his fortune on islands, cars and zoo animals. He has nothing left.

M: That’s juicy. How much did he spend?

D: $150m.

M: Hmmm…

D: So you have told anyone about our time in the park last month, when I walked around only wearing a swimsuit? You must have let the cat out of the bag, somehow. Everyone is talking to me about it.

M: Nope, I have not told a soul.

D: I wonder who spilled the beans about Mark and Jennifer’s affair? It has become common gossip.

M: I think I know who spread the rumour. But my lips are sealed. I don’t want to dish the dirt on anyone unless l am 100 per cent sure…

D: And have you told anyone about what you caught me doing the other day?

M: No way.

D: So, you are definitively not a blabbermouth.

M: So what else are the papers saying?

 

Who said that?

 

Match these quotes with their author (level: C1-C2):

 

  1. “Often those that criticise others reveal what he himself lacks.”
  2. “No one gossips about other people’s secret virtues.”
  3. “Never speak disrespectfully of Society, Algernon. Only people who can’t get into it do that.”
  4. “When it comes to gossip, I have to readily admit men are as guilty as women.”
  5. “Gossip is when you hear something you like about someone you don’t.”
  6. “Gossip is what no one claims to like, but everybody enjoys.”
  7. “The only gossip I’m interested in is things from the Weekly World News – ‘Woman’s bra bursts, 11 injured’. That kind of thing.”

 

a. Bertrand Russell (philosopher)

b. Marilyn Monroe

c. Earl Wilson (journalist and author)

d. Johnny Depp

e. Shannon L. Alder (inspirational author)

f. Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

g. Joseph Conrad (writer)

 

_________________________

Answer key:

1:e  –  2:a  –  3:f  –  4:b  –  5:c  –  6:g  –  7:d

_________________________

Sources:

Goodreads.com

brainyquote.com

 

Gossip often comes back to bite you

 

 

 

Garry Littman

Garry Littman

Garry Littman est le fondateur de The Language House à Genève. The Language House propose des coachings d'anglais à Genève pour les particuliers et les entreprises, ainsi que des cours intensifs d'anglais dans les pays anglophones. Garry a été journaliste en Australie et en Asie, il a travaillé pour World Radio Switzerland.

3 réponses à “Gossip: Nobody claims to like it, but everybody enjoys it

  1. After reading this article, I realise that for someone who thinks he doesn’t gossip much, in fact I gossip quite a bit. Gossiping is a bit like drinking a coffee, we do it everyday almost without thinking.
    We are all a bit like that, aren’t we?

  2. I gossip too.
    I think the only problem with gossip is that there is a line that one should not cross, where gossip becomes a malicious rumour and defamation.

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