The mayor of Icononzo, Colombia says (via Puerta del Sol) that he’s more frightened of gossip than of guerrillas or paramilitaries and has acquired powers to fine tabbies almost four million pesos (that’s roughly 4,100 Belarussian roubles). However, gossips aren’t only dangerous in war zones:

A large part of our middle class not only lives in the most supine ignorance, but goes so far as to make a cult of it. Useful books costing two or three pesetas are a horror to them and are not admitted into their decorative libraries. Those who believe that a library gives a home a stately touch fill it with the bulky tomes of fine art publishers, bound for this purpose in false gold and bright colours. The middle class assigns so much importance to ignorance that if one day one of the newspapers to which they subscribe drops a clanger and publishes an article of substance instead of the habitual tired gossip, they discard it with disdain and decide to cancel their suscription on the first reincidence. The intellectual level is so low that lovers of serious and significant discussion will not find a single worthwhile point of encounter. Those few who occupy themselves with scientific speculation have to shut themselves up in their own homes, and they consider themselves fortunate if from time to time they find a couple of friends who will listen to them. Nor should we turn to the academies, which in general vegetate and do no more than is necessary to confirm their existence.

Una gran part de la nostra classe mitja no sols viu en la ignorancia més supina, sino que arriva á prestar hi cult. Lo llibre útil de duas ó tres pessetas li fa horror y no te entrada en sas llibrerías d’ adorno. Los que ‘s creuhen que una llibreria dona to senyoril á una casa, la omplan dels tomos voluminosos dels editors d’ estampas, y dels que per a l’ objecte están enquadernats ab tapas d’ or fals y coloraynas. Tant la classe mitja presta cult á la ignorancia, que si un dia un dels diaris á que está suscrita fa la francesilla de donar un article substanciós en lloch de las xafarderias de costum, lo llensa ab menyspreu y ‘s fa ‘l propósit de deixar la suscripció á la primera reincidencia. Lo nivell intel·lectual está tan baix, que l’ aficionat á la discussió séria y trascendental no troba un sol punt de reunió que valgui la pena. Los pochs que s’ ocupan d’ especulacions científicas han de tancar se á casa seva, y ‘s consideran felissos si alguna que altra vegada troban un parell d’ amichs que se ‘ls escoltin. No cal que se refihin de las academias, puig que en general vegetan y no fan més que lo precís pera que no se las consideri disoltas.

Valentí Almirall’s famous essay, Lo catalanisme , published in 1886, goes on to discuss the degeneration and denaturalisation of the Catalan character due to contact with “the dominant race”, whose word for gossip, chisme(s), comes from chinche, (bed)bug.

[Chinch turns up somewhat to the north of Mayor Jiménez’z dumb âne in The Blues and thus in Bob Dylan:

There’s bedbugs on your baby’s bed, there’s chinches on your wife
Gangrene snuck in your side, it’s cuttin’ you like a knife


Chismes hopped out of bed and began bustling around in our ears in the 16th century–the Alcaide suffers terribly from them in Lope de Vega’s El lacayo fingido–but Almirall seems to be the first person to use the Catalan xafarderia. Grec says it comes from the pondy, sinky word safareig, around which public facilities townsfolk began to gather and mumble in the nineteenth century. Some European intellectuals never got over the experience.

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