Gossip: What People Say About It

We decided, at a reader’s request, to write about gossip and, along the way, to note what others have gossiped about it. We decided, at a reader’s request, to write about gossip and, along the way, to note what others have gossiped about it.

What might one say under the influence of a confessional potion when asked, “Why do you always talk about other people?”

We imagined the reply, “Apparently, because I have nothing much to say about myself.”

Before we turn to the little basket of quotes we picked for you, we can also pass along a couple of our own consolations. One, it’s a lot better to be interesting enough to be talked about than to be the interested party who’s doing the talking. Two, gossip’s empty gambits take place in a playground, actually, on a seesaw. The child who delights to babble sees you way up there – the higher the better – and thinks that by putting you down he or she will put himself or herself up. Tada!

Now, we turn to what others have gossiped about it. It appears, not surprisingly, that brilliance has enlivened the subject only rarely.

“The trouble with her is that she lacks the power of conversation but not the power of speech.” George Bernard Shaw

“I know that’s a secret, for it’s whispered everywhere.” William Congreve

“They come together like the Coroner’s Inquest, to sit upon the murdered reputations of the week.” Congreve

“I hate to spread rumors, but what else can you do with them?” Amanda Lear

“If you haven’t got anything good to say about anyone come and sit by me.” Alice Roosevelt Longworth

“She proceeds to dip her little fountain-pen filler into pots of oily venom and to squirt this mixture at all her friends.” Harold Nicolson

“I’m called away by particular business – but I leave my character behind me.” Richard Brinsley Sheridan

“Here is the whole set! A character dead at every word.” Same Sheridan

“There is only one thing in the world that is worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” Oscar Wilde

“A professional athlete – of the tongue.” Aldous Huxley

Social sewage.” George Meredith

“Foul whisperings.” William Shakespeare (Sometimes referrred to in gossip as Billy Wigglestick)

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