If there’s one thing the British love to do (even more than queuing) it’s talk. Whether it’s on the phone, at the bus stop, round the watercooler at work, over the garden fence or down the pub, you’ll find that people love to chat – and that they have plenty of words for talking too.
Part of this is down to the fact that there are so many different types of talking – formal and informal, serious or trivial, funny or flirty – and different types of talking takes place in all kinds of settings – you might have a ‘gossip’ on the phone, but you would never ‘gossip’ in the boardroom at your workplace, for example.
And there are also plenty of examples of words for ‘talking’ in the English language that are very regional, evolving out of dialects, that you might hear all the time in one part of the country but never hear anywhere else.
Here are some of our favourites that you can use to liven up the way you talk about talking.
idle talk or rumor, especially about personal or private affairs of others
light easy communication, eg. to write a letter full of gossip
This is one of the most-used words for ‘talking’ in English. Gossip magazines are full of it, gossip columnists are employed to write it. People gossip about celebrities, their family, work colleagues – that is, people gossip about other people. We’ve been enjoying gossiping for so long that this word has existed since at least the 12th Century! It comes from the Old English godsibb meaning godparent. A godparent was a close friend of the family, typically a woman, chosen to help with the birth of a child, and came to mean a person, especially a woman, who was fond of light talk.
to engage in conversation, long-winded or idle talk
This Scots word is used to talk about gossip, not serious talk. It infers that the talking going on is trivial chit chat, and that the chat itself lasts a long time. For example, you would have a blether with your best friend, catching up with and discussing all the latest news and gossip. It comes from the Old Norse blathra and blathr meaning nonsense.
to speak (about unimportant matters) rapidly and incessantly; prattle
the high-pitched repetitive noise made by a bird, monkey, etc
the rattling of objects, such as parts of a machine
This is a wonderfully descriptive word, with several meanings, used to talk about idle gossip. Chatter is an imitative word that sounds like the noise birds make. It’s a great word to use when there’s lots of loud talking going on in one place – like in a pub, or a restaurant – you can hear the loud ‘chatter’ of people talking, just as you can hear the loud ‘chatter’ of birds like Starlings.
Chin-wagging and chewing-the-fat
to engage in a friendly chat
Both of these phrases mean ‘to talk’ and both refer to the physical act of talking. Your chin ‘wags’ when you speak, and when you ‘chew the fat’ out of a piece of meat, you chew hard on it and enjoy it. And so both describe the way the mouth moves when we talk. These words are used when we’re talking in an informal way, passing the time by chatting with friends, rather than having a serious discussion.
to have a conversation about; consider by talking over; debate
This type of talking is more serious. If people discuss something, they talk about it, often in order to reach some kind of decision about it. You might discuss a work matter, or a problem, in order to find a solution. It comes from the Late Latin word discussus meaning examined, and from discutere meaning to investigate, to dash to pieces.
an intimate talk in private
a frank and candid talk between two people
You can’t have a heart-to-heart with just anyone. As the use of the heart suggests, this is a very personal and emotional conversation. This phrase is used to talk about those conversations where you ‘open your heart’ to someone, and speak honestly about how you really feel inside.
Of all of the English words you’ve discovered that mean ‘to talk’ what are your favourites? We’d love to know, so feel free to share.