definition of gossip

an original definition by J. E. Brown

n. A communication behavior:
  1. Information about a person which may embarrass that person. {Source: "Definition of gossip" by J. E. Brown.}
  2. Sensational tattling. Tabloid-quality accusations behind someone’s back.
  3. A form of character assassination.
  4. A form of peer pressure.
  5. The juicy part of hearsay.
  6. A form of backstabbing and disloyalty.

Synonyms, nonstandard:
  • George Harrison called it “The Devil’s Radio” (see it on YouTube).
  • I like to call it “The Public Aggress System” and “The Game of Phones”. ;^)

  • praise (Positive information is not gossip.)
  • team play
  • Discreet, factual whistleblowing on an abuser for purposes of protecting future victims is not gossip, but rather is the sort of thing a good friend does. {You're reading "Definition of gossip" by J. E. Brown.}

Related Concepts:
  • betrayal, character assassination, confidentiality, dignity, disloyalty, embarrassment, information security, infosec, kiss-and-tell, loyalty, misplacing one’s trust, outing, privacy, relational bullying, reputation, rumors, rumor-mongering, schadenfreude, secrecy, secrets, security, trust, trustworthiness
  • kitchen sinking: If you list all of your spouse’s or child’s bad points to a third person, that’s gossip. But if you recite a list of your spouse’s bad points back to your spouse as accusations, that’s kitchen sinking.

n. A kind of person:
  1. Someone who blabs your secrets.
  2. Someone who would rather be seen as a great storyteller than a loyal friend.
  3. A person who 3gossips.

  • busybody

  • confidant (male) or confidante (female); loyal friend.

Related Concepts:
  • The word “gossip” is sometimes used by persons who are unaware of the fine distinction between “gossip” and “slander”. Gossip may be true or false; however, by the legal definition, slander and libel are composed only of falsehoods; in other words, a statement must be false to be libelous or slanderous. In the present article, the defining feature of “gossip” is its disregard for the embarrassment and privacy of the subject, and so, gossip and slander share some features, but not all. Abusive persons often twist this definition by pretending that true and factual accounts of their behavior constitute slander, but this is of course an incorrect use of the word “slander”.
  • Inexperienced/uneducated people sometimes refer to true (factual) gossip as “lies”; to be clearer, they believe that all gossip is lying. This is of course an incorrect use of the word “gossip” and the word “lies”, and probably reveals how denial works.

  1. To spread 1gossip. {Source: "Definition of gossip" by J. E. Brown.}
  2. To embarrass people or denigrate their images behind their backs, especially people who thought you had their backs.

  • Suppose person q gossips about person p, by telling one of p’s secrets to persons x, y, and z for purposes of mere entertainment. This action makes the information 1gossip, and makes person q a 2gossip, and makes q’s actions 3gossiping.

  1. (of a person) Having a tendency to 3gossip. {Source: "Definition of gossip" by J. E. Brown.}
  2. (of information) Having the sound or quality of 1gossip.

  • prejudicial (legalese for “gossipy”)

  • trustworthy

Excerpts from my book (in progress)

A little sketch I call “Go to Confession — for Others.

Girl:   Bless me, Father, for my friend has sinned!!!

Priest: What did she do? How has she sinned?{Source: "Definition of gossip" by J. E. Brown.} 

Girl:   She’s a total skank and a ho. Also I heard she can’t keep her knees together!

Priest: Ah, that IS serious. Say two Ave Marias … and repeat your story to three of your friends. 

Girl:   Yes, Father. 

— J. E. Brown

OCD sufferers would seem to be the opposite of gossips:

One subgroup of OCD sufferers fear that they can cause disasters just by thinking unkind thoughts. They have guilt and anxiety barometers that are completely out of whack. This is critical to remember: their anxiety/guilt meters are faulty, kaput, stuffed-up, and shot-to-pieces. Unlike the rest of the population who can curse and swear a D, E and F word in the same breath without troubling their anxiety or guilt meters, these conscientious souls suffer high levels of anxiety just thinking they might be thinking the curse. We are talking massive guilt attacks here, the kind that persons without anxiety would feel if they mistakenly caused the death of a dear family member.

—, downloaded 24 Sep 2004

A youth leader at one baptist church told his teen audience that they shouldn’t be caught up in popular culture. As proof of the dangers, he blurted out “The Beatles are homasexshals!” Now, I don’t know where he heard that rumor or what band he was thinking of, but it was a statement that had the power to stun. And that’s the power of gossip. The power of gossip is that a gossipy message already contains all the supporting evidence it needs (namely: none). If it’s shocking, it’s believable, and will be believed. If it’s shocking, it’s memorable, and will be remembered.{Source: "Definition of gossip" by J. E. Brown.}

I’ve seen how gossip wrecks families and workplaces. When the gossipy person spreads rumors, those rumors get believed. Well, not exactly believed — most people who hear a rumor won’t check it out by asking the people involved. Most people who hear a rumor about you will be too timid to check the story by asking you if it’s true. Instead, they’ll just tiptoe around you, like you have a disease that’s too tragic to bring up. No one wants to get close to you because the gossip has installed a moat around your perimeter.

Anything that is sufficiently scary will be believed without proof.

— J. E. Brown

From the chapter on How to Be a Lousy Spouse:

If a TV talk show host ever asks you what your spouse does that really annoys you, — answer.
If your mother-in-law asks, — answer.
If the cashier at the grocery store asks, — answer.
If a stranger on the bus asks, — answer.
There is no boundary.

— J. E. Brown

The Perils of Dating A Gossip.

The problem with breakups is that once you break up with someone, you never know what he or she will do with your secrets. Presumably, all your secrets will no longer be safe: your ex will probably start spreading them.
Some people don’t even wait for the breakup! They’ll break the confidence of a live, healthy relationship, even a relationship that is going well!

Look out for dates who share embarrassing factoids about their friends and family. Gossip is unkind, and so, only gossip about abusers and enemies is allowable. But if your date habitually shares unkind gossip about his or her so-called “loved ones”, that’s just schizophrenic, and reveals a not-yet-fully-mature sense of loyalty. Friends are people you defend, whether they’re in the room or not. Friends are people who defend you, whether you’re in the room or not.

— J. E. Brown

Bosses to Watch Out For.

Supervisors are some of the worst rumor-starters. I had the opportunity to work with the World War II files of a major philanthropic organization, made public in the National Archives. Archived personnel files show the kind of character assassination that goes on in the workplace, and the libel and slander and covert aggression and supervisory sneak attacks that personnel files are used for.

The 21st Century is the age of the hacked file and the whistleblower. Tasty files have a way of not staying secret. Supervisors are advised that false rumors which damage someone’s career may come back to haunt you — in a court of law.

— J. E. Brown

Gossip and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).

N’s (people with NPD) frequently accuse others of being N’s. “So,” you might ask, “how can I be sure my friend or relative is the N, and not me?” Look for these additional symptoms:

  1. Reality Distortion Field: He or she accuses everyone of being mentally defective. N’s are on a mission to make everyone around them look bad, which makes the N look better by comparison, by making abnormality and bad behavior look common. The N in your life will be the one who spreads the family gossip: tells you who’s getting a divorce, who cheated on whom, who has a drug problem, who has a mental illness (diagnosed by the N, of course).{You're reading "Definition of gossip" by J. E. Brown.}
  2. Soap Opera Accusations: When you ask the N what his conclusions are based on, his diagnostic accusations are based on judgmental statements and standards (involving divorce, alcohol use, choice of job, hair style, clothing, etc., the usual topics of gossipy people), not on diagnostic criteria even remotely similar to those found in the DSM, the diagnostic manual of real psychologists. Example: “Well, the reason why I say she’s narcissistic: She’s so vain! She’s always getting a new hairstyle. She looks like a whore. No wonder her husband divorced her.”

Why do I include these symptoms? Because it fits and explains the classic N patterns. Based on my own experience with an abuser, the narcissist adopts an attitude of “You Can Do No Right” toward all the people in his or her life. In the N’s eyes, everyone else is defective — and proving it becomes the N’s favorite sport.

Occasionally you’ll meet someone who gossips non-stop. This gossip knows everything about everyone. Her life is the real soap opera. If only Reality TV were as interesting as she is! Curious that everyone she knows has a mental illness, or a fashionable disorder, or a drug problem. Life is just so much more colorful when she’s around. You must ask yourself: Is it all true, or is she creating a reality distortion field around herself? Is this how she makes herself into your Appointment Television?

— J. E. Brown

Funny story: I once knew someone like that. She could NOT keep a secret — and yet somehow she got hired to be the info security officer for my workplace. ;^)

— Brad


Due to the prevalence of the insanity called Denial, I’ve begun to believe that most gossip is true, and people who are on a mission to wipe out gossip have an ulterior motive, to abolish morality. The exceptions are NPD sufferers. Persons with NPD often spread truthful gossip, but exaggerate the importance of that gossip, in order to get the spotlight off of their own behavior.

— J. E. Brown

Gossip, as Memes.

A “meme”, of course, is any bit of information which is so popular that people gladly spread it, like a virus. Thus memes become immortal in a survival-of-the-fittest kind of way.
All of those kitten pictures on Facebook? Those kittens have assumed control, my friend. ;^)

Gossip can be studied as a kind of meme. Consider gossipy statements like “I heard that person X is immoral in some way.”
These memes contain a preservative, the seed of their own permanence:
Any meme that tells you to avoid something is telling you to never experiment with it,
never confront it, never meet with it, never understand it, never risk becoming friends with it.
… I’ve known people who do that. If you have a family gossip or a gossip in your workplace,
someone who spends every free minute assassinating the character of your other associates,
that’s what the gossip is saying:
“Never meet my opposite. Never find out for yourself if my stories are true.
Instead, spend all your time with me.”

(COUGH) Selfish.

— J. E. Brown

… If you repeat the story to your friends and their jaws drop, consider the possibility that you told the story precisely to get that reaction.
If you did, you’re a gossip.

You may rest assured that anytime you feel an uncontrollable urge to disclose something about a third party, and you can’t see a way that the disclosure benefits that third party, it’s gossip.
… To the extent that you can’t resist revealing the information, you can be sure that someone wanted the information kept secret and out of the wrong hands. {You're reading "Definition of gossip" by J. E. Brown.}

… It’s a basic principle. It’s a simple equation: If I tell you something about myself that would make good gossip, you may safely assume that I told you in confidence.

— J. E. Brown

First-Time Dating Advice.

No one will warn you about a bad boyfriend. For one thing, your little teenage friends mostly believe that warning you about an abuser is the same thing as “gossiping”. Many people at age 20 can’t yet reason at an adult level, and so, they haven’t figured out that their first loyalty is to their friends, not to their enemies, and especially not to their abusive exes. When you ask “Why didn’t you tell me I was dating an abuser?” expect your friends to give you blank stares — like the lights are on, but nobody’s home. So it makes little sense to ask “What are they thinking?” because they’re not.
Most people have crickets where their conscience should be. {Source: "Definition of gossip" by J. E. Brown.}

By the way, did you know — one survey found that on Facebook, more people are friends with their exes than with their current partners! Talk about misguided loyalties!

— J. E. Brown

Random Thoughts.

Loose lips sink relationships.{Source: "Definition of gossip" by J. E. Brown.}

— common saying

I have a theory that when people stop conversing with you, it’s because they’ve started talking about you.

One measure of a man is how well he speaks of his woman when she’s not around. And vice versa.

Any love which does not cause you to curb your tongue is not real love. {You're reading "Definition of gossip" by J. E. Brown.}

Given the tendency of young people to believe what they’re told, we must view child gossiping about classmates as the foundation of the bullying process.

— J. E. Brown


What people are ashamed of usually makes a good story.

— F. Scott Fitzgerald

There are two things that will be believed of any man whatsoever, and one of them is that he has taken to drink.

— Booth Tarkington

The only nice thing about being imperfect is the joy it brings to others.

— Doug Larson

1st edition 03 Sep 2015

Notes & References

  1. ~reference 1 details: ~author, “~title” (at ~website) ~More can be imported from file "dealbreaker.html" when that is finalized.

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