In everyday conversational exchange we generally employ forms of speech which privilege certain types of behaviour. In so doing, however, we tend to denigrate other modes of conduct. As a child, for example, I can recall being told that I was ‘a chatterbox’. Furthermore I was given to understand that having been labelled in this way I was obliged to do something about it. Indeed I soon learned that at the very least I should ‘shut up’ so that the adults and the less talkative children around me could get on with doing something useful.

Of course it was not just children who were subject to such forms of (linguistic) discipline: The adults, I now realise, also lived in a world where ‘talk was cheap’ and to be ‘a gossip’ ...

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