Classic Usage: Remember those snarky old women gathered around the jailhouse door to watch Hester take the walk from her cell to the pillary? They wished Hester’s fate had been in their hands. Here’s what one of them said, “It would be greatly for the public behoof, if we women, being of mature age and church-members in good repute, should have the handling of such malefactresses as this Hester Prynne. What thisk ye, gossips?”
Classically Mad Usage: I freely admit, that had I not been pulled to the back of my book with a handy little asterisk, I would have read over this unassuming word, simply believing that the ol’ matron was just calling a thing what it is. But no, no. Even though she was bashing Hester, her own dear friends were safe from her reproof. So, next time you are called a gossip, plop the best construction on that label, and just imagine that you and the name-caller are kindred spirits. Well, unless that makes it worse.