SCUTTLEBUTT: gossip, the latest word on something

scuttlebuttWhen someone whispers in your ear that they have “the scuttlebutt” on someone or something…beware!  It is as if they had said to you, “I have the latest fabrication, lie, exaggeration, or rumor on a person.”    It is information not to be trusted.

Now, sometimes  it’s the truth.   But the word scuttlebutt leans toward the direction of gossip, and is not to be trusted.

Similarly, when you approach someone and ask, “So…what’s the scuttlebutt about (whatever?)” you are just asking for trouble.   If you have to ask in that way, you are not doing real research…you are participating in gossip.

The term scuttlebutt appears to be a late 18th century naval shortcut term for that which is discussed by sailors over the water keg from which they are allowed to drink.  In other words, it is the equivalent of a “water cooler” conversation among employees.   It is not the official word from the leadership or the administration.   It is common gossip among the crew, much of which is wishful thinking or speculative gloom and doom.

There is an abundance of scuttlebutt in an election year.  It can focus upon who’s ahead in the polls, who has the greatest amount of money in their war chest, who is supporting whom, and who is about to drop out of the campaign.  I read an article on the internet last week that declared that the writer had heard that Jeb Bush had dropped out of the campaign for President.  Another article the same day confirmed the truth of it.   Have you seen it in the headlines of the New York Times, or heard it on CBS-TV?   I haven’t.  It was, indeed, scuttlebutt  and I bought it…hook, line and sinker.   Consider it wishful thinking.


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