We all know that person who just has to have the latest news — good or bad — about everyone. You might think of that person as a busybody or a gossip. Whatever the name, we all profess to despise the practice while simultaneously crave to hear whatever that person has to say. The practice of gossiping is as old as language itself. If you find yourself prone to spreading gossip, you might consider limiting yourself to sharing the names that English-speaking society has developed for gossip-spreaders.
From the Latin “quid nunc,” meaning “what now?” A quidnunc is a person who is always eager to learn the latest news and scandals.
A Latin-English dictionary from 1552 identifies a clatterfart as someone who “will disclose any light secret.”
In the 15th century, “prate” was a synonym for “to chatter.” It refers to the clucking sound of poultry. “Pie” comes from the magpie, a bird that has long been associated with relentless noise. One who talks endlessly about things that are other people’s business has the same effect on the ears as nonstop nonsensical bird sounds.
English playwright Thomas Middleton coined the word “babliaminy” in 1608. Derived from “babble,” it refers to someone who talks excessively. A versatile word, it can be modified to refers to a gossip as a “babelard” or a “bablatrice.”
The use of “yenta” as a word for “busybody” came from a series of comic sketches in the 1920s and 1930s in The Jewish Daily Forward. Humorist Jacob Adler, writing under the pen name B. Kovner, created the character Yente Telebende, who always seemed to know everyone else’s business. The 1964 musical Fiddler on the Roof also features a character named Yente, who lives up to the same reputation.
Gossips generally like to get juicy tidbits in exchange for what they share. Consequently, an old English slang expression “babble-merchant” developed, referring to “someone who sells nonsense noise.”
Gashle is an old Scottish term meaning “to twist something out of shape.” “Beik” is a derogatory term for a person’s mouth. And if you’re twisting your mouth out of shape by incessantly talking, then you’re a “gashelbike.”
“Twattle” is a synonym for “nonsense.” In the 16th century, a person who carried around and dispensed such nonsense was known as a “twattle-basket.”
The Scottish verb “blether” or “blather” means “to talk incessant nonsense.” “Skite” or “skate” refers to “a sudden quick movement.” A “blatherskite” is someone who is quick to spout nonsense.
Before it referred to the noise of two metal objects hitting each other, the word jangle was used to mean “to talk excessively or noisily,” or “to dispute angrily.” In addition to being a gossip, you can label as a jangler anyone who is a constant, vocal complainer.
Derived from blaterare, a Latin word meaning “to chatter” or “babble,” blatteroon or blateroon first appeared in English in the mid-1600s.
Popularized by President Warren G. Harding (who probably picked it up from local Ohio slang in the late 19th century), the word bloviate is now taken to mean “to speak verbosely or long-windedly”—and someone who does precisely that is a bloviator.
As a verb, you can use clatter to mean “to disclose secrets,” or “to chatter or gossip.” As a noun, a clatteran is one who engages in the practice of disclosing secrets.
According to the Scottish National Dictionary, a clipmalabor is “a senseless silly talker.” The word comes from the Scots word “slip-ma-labor,” which refers to a lazy slacker or idler who would literally let their work (i.e. their labor) “slip.” Ultimately, its original meaning was probably something along the lines of “someone who gossips while they should be working.”
Dating back to the 1880s at least, the word jawsmith began life as late 19th century American slang for a chatterbox. It also can be used to refer to a proficient or professional talker or orator, or a vociferous leader or demagogue.
The word “tongue-pad” first appeared in English in the late 1600s. It was defined in A Dictionary of the Canting Crew in 1699 as “a smooth, glib-tongued, insinuating fellow.” That meaning had changed by the time it was added to Webster’s Dictionary in 1913, which defined it as “a great talker; a chatterbox.”