Other Wind
29 / September29 / September29 / September


I went to do some research at the UT library on fairy godmothers after work today, for a story I’m writing. In a book called From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers, by Marina Warner, I found the following explanation of the word gossip:

In 1014, the word ‘gossip’ was used in English for a baptismal sponsor, godmother or -father; by 1632, it denoted a ‘friend’ and applied almost exclusively to female friends invited by a woman to the christening of her child. A ‘gossiping’ is an old word for a christening feast. Jan Steen’s high spirited painting known also by that title, in the Wallace Collection in London…, shows a kitchen bustling with friends and helpers; the confined mother lies in bed in an alcove, looking very weak, while two women keep by her side; around the table, by the chimney, more women are heating water, gesturing to each other, engaged in conversation as they focus on the newborn child. From 1590 to the 1660s, when such festivities were set to become ever more popular and lavish sources of social bonding, among Catholics and Protestants alike, the word ‘gossip’ had gone into free fall, and came to mean ‘a person, mostly a woman, especially one who delights in idle talk; a newsmonger, a tattler’.
Warner goes on to explain that the Italian and French words for gossip (commare and commère) underwent similar transformations.