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.
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.