Sunday, November 29, 2020

Gossip and Rumours – culture of the ordinary

How many times have you walked into a room where you find people talking and, as soon as you step inside the room, everyone goes quiet? If the answer to that question is positive then you may not know it but chances are they were gossiping about you.

Traditionally, female folk, especially those from the rural areas, used to be associated with talking about people behind their back.

Lately, this has become popular even in the urban areas, with men and even children becoming more and more comfortable starting conversations with the words “I heard”.

So popular has this trend become that a phrase has been coined for it. When quizzed on where they heard whatever story they are narrating, one would say they heard it through “radio mall”, meaning one heard it from anyone person in particular.

I was in a combi with some students from a local junior school the other day and they were talking about schoolmates the journey through.

A friend of mine recently confronted me about something that I didn’t tell him about and when I asked whom he was gossiping me with, he told me they were not gossiping but merely talking about me with some friends.

People love to listen to rumours. In the rural areas, some people use gossiping to their advantage, by going around spreading rumours about others just to score a free plate of food or a cup of tea.

Though it may be hurtful and destructive, we all love to engage in small talk about other people. The words ‘a o utlwile’ or “have you heard” can turn heads and get one an instant audience.
Tabloids and gossip websites are making a killing writing malicious unconfirmed hearsay about peoples personal lives. The very same people that shut up when you entered the room will switch the topic to someone else who is not in the room and before you realise it you are fully taking part in the conversation.

Gossip should not be tolerated in a modern society. The words “I have heard” should not command so much respect. I think many of us remember that little exercise we used to do at school, where the teacher would whisper something into a students’ ear and ask them to tell it to another student who in turn does it to the next. After everyone has written ‘heard’, we would be asked to read to the class and the way sentences change is quite amazing. Every student would say something different and words like “my feet are cold” can easily be turned to I am hungry or your sister is beautiful.

So next time when you are around friends or colleagues who are gossiping, ask yourself and maybe them too weather this is what happens about yourself when you are not around. Maybe even take it a step further and expose a gossip monger in your organisation by revealing to someone what was said about them during their absence and by whom.

But be warned, you may not be the most popular person in the office.

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Sunday Standard November 29 – 5 December

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of November 29 - 5 December, 2020.