Here is a familiar scenario: When you ask someone about the truth within themselves and they deflect the conversation. When you see 16 missed calls on your phone just moments after you left a big incident or meeting at work or church. You hear whispers and rumors at a family reunion long before it even begins.
These are clear signs that one of our most ardent enemies is lurking…..gossip.
We all know it’s out there and have been guilty of slipping into its sinuous grasp from time to time. Sometimes we weren’t’ even aware and sometimes it was on our agenda all along (depending on the individual). For those of us that try to stray away from this malicious activity, here are some audible signs that gossip is looming near. We polled some of our Facebook friends and asked them to share catch phrases used when gossip ensues.
When you hear “I heard…” you know that anything coming after that is an especially raw or detailed account of something that the person speaking may or may not know about. Based on the inflection of the voice and the facial expression, this could either be up-to-the-minute information that the giver wants to share with you as if they were an anchor on CNN or a contempt-filled account, filled with slurs and defamation. Beware.
“THIS IS BETWEEN YOU AND ME…”
Variations include, “..between the both of us”, “don’t let this get out”, “I’m not supposed to say anything, but…” and any other line that suggests anonymity and that the information being shared you shouldn’t be privy to.
First of all, “Who are they?” If the person in the story does not have a name or identity, then you probably don’t need or want this information. “They” allows for anonymity and makes you look like an idiot when you try to recount the story
“LET ME TELL YOU…”
Subtly, this is eerily similar to “This is between you and me…” Somehow, a piece of information was sent to the brain and immediately triggered the tongue . Other variations include “Chile, let me tell you..” and “Let me tell you this…”
YELLING OUT GENDER OR SOUNDS
When you hear “giiirrrllll” or “maaaannnn” the words coming after will be filled with exaggeration, hyperbole, and questionably accurate information. If you hear “OOOO-WEEE!!” This falls under the same umbrella.
“DID YOU HEAR?”
This expression lets you know that you are out-of-the-loop on something that should be common knowledge. If a person enhances that with “Didn’t you hear?”, it means that you definitely are the ONLY one that hasn’t heard this information. Certainly, you don’t wanna be the only loser walking around without knowing who did what, right?
WAIT ‘TIL I TELL YOU THIS…
Have you ever seen the preview to your favorite television show where they say “on the next episode of…” and follow that with a sneak peek at all the pieces of the story you want to know? Yeah. It’s like that.
“WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME?”
This is a line usually shared with like-minded gossips. Putting the responsibility of disseminating the undercover information with your fellow gossips on your shoulders. Your co-conspirator has garnered some information that they feel you should have given them. Could this be the first sign of dissension in the ranks?
“PROMISE ME YOU WON’T LET THIS GET OUT…BUT, “
While we’re giving you lines that allow you to share the blame for spewing this poison, let’s not leave this one out. You are required to be honorable enough to keep this information between you and another although there is a rule that says; “There is no honor among thieves”. Apparently, there is honor among gossips. Are gossips sworn to secrecy? Go figure.
“YOU’RE NOT GONNA BELIEVE THIS…”
Apparently whatever outrageously contrived revelation that you have listened to before, pales in comparison to what you are about to hear. Strap up, busybodies! This is about to get good.
“YOU KNOW I DON’T LIKE TO GET IN ANYONE’S BUSINESS, BUT…”
This says that you want to remove yourself from any falsehood spreading, but you do have an opinion about the individual in question. You may not want to get in anyone’s business, but….you are about to.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOIN’?” or “CAN YOU TALK” or “ARE YOU BUSY”
These questions indicate that the gasbag on the other end has some heavy “Tea” they want to spill and you should probably give them your undivided attention. Maybe, you should even sit down, stop cooking for your family or put a halt to any productive activity you are presently engaged in.
“YOU AIN’T HEARD IT FROM ME”
Again with the secrecy. It’s like we are spies behind enemy lines in World War II. If we get captured, no matter how they question you, beat you or torture you, you cannot reveal your sources.
“PRAY FOR________ BECAUSE…”
They don’t want to gossip, so they will voice it in the form of a prayer request. Hidden under the guise of spiritual concern, this can be a tricky one. You have to really listen carefully so that you are not sucked up into an audible cesspool. If their prayer request is not immediately followed by an agreement to meet you in prayer on that person’s behalf, beware. It will most likely be met with intimate details on the status of the person that will lead you to do the exact opposite of prayer.
“DID YOU SEE…”
This is where accounts of actual events go horribly wrong. We recant something funny or unusual that occurred in a place where we were all in attendance. Perhaps it was worth denoting and slightly unbelievable. 5 minutes in, the hole gets deeper and we either stray away into uncharted territory or start hurling terrible insults about the person(s) that are the main character(s) in our story.
“LET ME GET THIS STRAIGHT…”
In the heat of a messy conversation, if someone blurts out this phrase, things are about to go awry. Someone in the gossip pool is in need of clarity. Either they got the names mixed up, they lost track of the number of victims, they were interrupted or the grapevine is so tangled that they find this information to be too much to just accept in one take.
There are a few more lines that show us that gossip has evolved. These last four are gossip buzzwords for the new millennium:
“SO TELL ME WHY?”
Younger readers will relate to this one because it fits in with their way of speaking. Grandparents, don’t get involved in this one. They don’t actually want you to tell them why, but if you can tell the reason and make the story juicier, all the better.
“I GOT SOME TEA”
No grandma, they do not want to sit down and drink Lipton with you, What “They” mean is that they have some trending news that is too hot to keep and is probably part of a bigger story that you and your fellow quidnuncs are following.
“WHAT HAPPENED WITH THEM?”
Yes. This is a direct question. However, in the annals of grandstanding hearsay, this is perfectly acceptable. This is the same as asking your informant about a suspect that you’ve been tailing for weeks. If you have some suspicions that their marital status changed, their sexuality is questionable, whether or not they are still members of the church, etc. You ask your informant.
“HEY, CHECK THIS OUT..”
Which can be followed by any number of the aforementioned lines. It is a much smoother, more hip way of spreading gossip. A smooth playboy or man about town would never say “Let me tell you…”, but this is the perfect segway into tattletale paradise.
There you have it. Some of the most venomous, vile, unscrupulous and underhanded words used to dig up utter skullduggery from your co-workers, fellow churchgoers, friends and family members to spread vicious and incendiary information. Bone up on your vocabulary of slander. Remember when you try to avoid this type of dialog, rest assured, the next conversation will be about you.
Special thanks to
Elder Gina McClendon, Mr. Charles Grooms, Dr. Kermita Washington, radio personalities Ms. Annette Harris and Pastor Alvin C. Cater Sr., blogger extraordinaire, Ms. Telfon Tiff, master musician, Mr. Mark Nelson, Ms. Fatima Winston, my dear cousin, Mr. Brian Allen, Mrs. Michelle Adams, Mr. Kevin Harris, Ms. Lenicia Boyd and the inimitable Mrs. Abbie Terry-Lewis.
for their contribution to this article and for their support.