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ANOTHER DAY IN THE COUNTRY: We called it gossip

© Another Day in the Country

According to an old Webster’s unabridged dictionary, that’s at least 6 inches thick, more than 40 years old, sitting in my office, one of the meanings of the word “gossip” is a  person who chatters or repeats idle talk and rumors about others. 

That is the second meaning offered for the word “gossip.” I mentioned it first, because it’s probably a meaning we could easily agree on. 

The first is “a close friend, a godparent. God relative.” This was news to me and I’d never have guessed this was the original meaning of the word gossip!

A dictionary, for as long as I can remember, has been the standard everyone agreed upon, whether you were seeking to choose just the right word to explain something or prove your point when playing Scrabble. 

The dictionary is where you would go not only for meaning but for spelling.  

Then this new digitized universe of information exploded on the Internet. Wikipedia sprang up where originally sincere, well-meaning people keyed in information for a great number of people at will.  

Now where does anything so malleable as “truth” or “right” come into the equation?  

There was an app advertised on my iPhone “to sharpen your mind, in 10 minutes a day,” that enticed me to download the game Wordscapes

I’m one of those old-fashioned people who teethed on the “How to Increase Your Word Power” column published in Reader’s Digest. So, I downloaded the game and was instantly hooked. 

I blissfully played through almost 100 levels until one day I was stumped. Since the game is in crossword form, every time you get a particularly interesting word, you are rewarded with feedback.

“Awesome,” comes popping up on the screen or “marvelous,” “amazing,” and a slew of other congratulatory words to stroke your ego.

And then I hit a puzzle I could not finish. 

It was a three-letter word beginning and ending with the letter “n”.  I tried all the vowels available to me and when I hit “n-a-n” the app responded, “Excellent.” 

“What? Excellent,” I said, “Nan is not even a word.”

Here’s the fun part!  You can hold on a word to check its meaning.

It’s sort of like “increasing your word power.” The meaning will come up in dictionary form and the reference they give for the word in question is “Wictionary” not any standard dictionary. 

The meaning the app suggested for the word “nan” was an Indian flatbread, which is actually spelled “naan.” 

I didn’t really feel quite so keen on the game after that.

There really wasn’t a very high standard of excellence expected even though the words, “excellent,” and “wonderful,” popped up to cheer me on.  It was a little like cheating — and who would want to play a game where people cheat? I don’t!

It’s no fun to play with cheaters, that’s why you have rules. If you follow the rules and win, it takes more skill. There’s an honor in abiding by rules — or there used to be. What have we become ourselves if we champion cheaters, choose rule breakers, or vote for liars?

Gossips are often rule breakers who tell stories that aren’t theirs to share, embellishing them with their own opinions and conjecture to improve the tale and make it more exciting. Come to think of it, that’s what I often hear on the news channels!

There used to be, and still should be, rules about what qualifies as news — but in this day and age, of 24-hour news cycles, there just aren’t enough-jaw dropping things happening even with all the goings-on in our nation’s capital to keep people listening. So now much “news” is actually “gossip” (fourth definition) chatter and  should be treated as such, not truth! 

So where do you find truth?  I don’t honestly know. Even this column is not everyone’s truth.  I try to make it as accurate as I can, but in the end it is just my opinion. 

My favorite radio station is National Public Radio and I was listening to the newscaster give a brief synopsis stories that would be coming up in a few minutes.

The story of a smartphone app that failed to accurately report caucus results in Iowa was called the “Democrat debacle.”

“Debacle” is not a word you hear very often, so I pricked up my ears. According to my dictionary the word “debacle” means: an overthrow (to break up), 2. a rush of debris-filled water, 3. a great disaster. 

The real disaster, it seemed to me, was calling the failure of an app a debacle over and over again!  It was a failed app, not the end of the world, or the end of a party, or the end of an election. It was a boo-boo, at a bad time.

The next word in my Webster’s dictionary was “debar”: to shut out or exclude. 

That’s what I’d like to do to gossip which masquerades as news,  during another day in the country.

Last modified March 5, 2020

 

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