Tue Jul 16, 2019 London
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EDITORIAL

Editorial comment from Matthew Steeples Our editor tells it like it is and he rarely minces his words

Do you “chitter-chatter”?

The phrase “chit-chat”

 

This morning, as I walked through the streets of Chelsea, I heard a lady blabbering into her mobile telephone about how she’d had a “chit-chat” with her friend. I cringed. I don’t know why, but I do truly hate this phrase.

 

To “chit-chat” or “not to chit-chat”: that is the question

My first encounter with “chit-chat” was in the early 2000s when I knew a certain rival of the especially lowbrow glamour model Jordan (AKA Katie Price). This individual, since married off to an equally esteemed chap from Essex, used to call me and say: “ ‘Allo, I’m just giving ya a tinkle-tankle for a bit of a chit-chat.” Her words stuck in my mind and now every time I hear those words, I sadly think of her.

 

A Google search on the origins of “chit-chat” produces two separate citations from 1710. The first comes in Samuel Palmer’s Moral essays on some of the most curious English, Scotch, and foreign proverbs:

“ ‘Tis the custom of foolish people … in their chit chat to be always biting people’s reputation behind their back.”

 

A second mention comes in a piece by Sir Richard Steele in edition 197 of The Tatler:

 

“If Ralph had Learning added to the common Chit-Chat of the Town.”

 

Is this a phrase to embrace or one that should be consigned to the dustbin of history? I think you know my view.

Comments

5 comments on “Do you “chitter-chatter”?”

  1. Matt,

    I quite like chit-chat. It is onomatopaeic, and conjures up the sound of people talking at a cocktail party. I can’t think what one would replace it with for just this same meaning.

    Barbara

  2. I can understand the word “chat ” or chatter, but where does the ” chit ” come from.? does not anyway sound right in English..
    I would bin it .

  3. I agree with Barbara Minto. Chit Chat. Chitter Chatter. The buzz of innocuous conversation which is inoffensive and part of socialising. Tune it out with an ipod loaded with whatever pleases you!

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