Background Information This is from the bestselling 2008 book, Watching the English by Katie Fox, who is a social anthropologist and director of the Social Issues Research Centre at the University of Oxford. The book is a cultural description of English ways of communicating (on topics like the weather or when using mobile phones) and behaving (at home or in the workplace, when eating, and the social behaviour in pubs). She uses her own behavior and observes that of others but also, as a social scientist, interviews people and conducts social experiments to reveal the social rules or underlying codes and customs. Other topics in the book include dress codes, ways of shopping, queuing, and – the extract here – social gossip. Her other books are about horse racing, etiquette in pubs, and drinking and public disorder.
The extract here is about gossip, or social talk. To gossip is a social way to talk about other people and their private lives or about things that are not important. The writer and other researchers have found that when people gossip there are social patterns in the choice of topic and the way of talking about it. The phrase in the title, “gossip rules”, refers to the rules or patterns that are found in how people gossip, but it is ambiguous and might mean that gossip rules or governs our lives.
Alfred Woodard (1952– ) is an American film and TV actress who has received many Emmy awards; Her films include Star Trek: First Contact and Mandela and her TV roles include parts in Hill Street Blues, St Elsewhere and Desperate Housewives. She says she is “an actor” rather than “an actress” because “actresses worry about eyelashes and cellulite” while women who are actors “worry about the characters they are playing”. In other words, she does not think of herself as a woman who acts and thinks of herself as a woman, but as an actor who thinks about roles and characters.
Robin Lakoff (1942– ) has been a professor of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley since 1972. Her 1975 book, Language and Women’s Place, gave details of ten characteristics that distinguish women’s language from that of men, including more apologies, greater use of intensifiers, more direct quotations, more qualifying phrases. She is known for formulating a “politeness principle” of three maxims which are important for good interaction: don’t impose, give the receiver options, and make the receiver good. Her 2000 book, The Language War, shows how the undue attention given to some issues in the American media is related to social power (or lack of it) and gender and race.
Discussion 1.Are there any stereotypes about gender? 2.Do you think people believe in those stereotypes? 3.Why / Why not? How useful is the sort of research presented in the passage? 4.Would such research lead to similar findings in China?
Text Comprehension (1) 1.What does the research quoted in the passage show? 2.What do men do when women are present? 3.What is the main difference between male and female What is “the tone rule” in women’s gossip? 4.What is “the detail rule”? 5.What does “the feedback rule” say about listeners?
1. What is the message of the story? 2. In what way does the story confirm the findings of the writer of Sex differences in English gossip rules? 3. Does gossip harm people? 4. Do you gossip? If so, what do you gossip about? 5. Have you ever regretted something you have said? Text Comprehension (2)
exhaustive : very thorough; exhaustively complete We made exhaustive inquiries for the goods. 对该商品，我们已尽全力并在可能范围内向外发出 询价。 An exhaustive investigation of the facts proves the contrary. 彻底地调查事实后发现情况正好相反。
In algebra, the sign X usually denotes an unknown quantity. 在代数里, 符号 X 常用来表示未知数。 We often denote danger by red letters. 我们常常用红字表示危险。 denote : be a sign or indication of
eloquent : expressing yourself readily, clearly, effectively The defence lawyer made an eloquent plea for his client's acquittal. 被告方的律师为委托人的无罪开释作了有说服力的辩护。 Her enthusiasm made her eloquent. 她的热情使她能言善辩。
entrust : confer a trust upon He entrusted me with his money. 他委托我代管他的钱。 You have no right to play ducks and drakes with money that has been entrusted to you. 你没权挥霍委托你保管的钱。
hostile: characterized by enmity or ill will Their hostile looks showed that he was unwelcome. 他们怀敌意的表情说明他不受欢迎。 The local people are hostile to outsiders. 当地人敌视外地人。
multiple ： the product of a quantity by an integer He excels in multiple-choice questions. 他擅长做选择题。 The driver of the crashed car received multiple injuries. 出事汽车的司机多处受伤。 She is a multiple job holder. 她是个兴趣多样的职业者。
presume: take to be the case or to be true I presume to suggest that you should take legal advice. 我冒昧地建议 : 你应该找律师咨询。 You had better presume no such thing. 你最好不要这样设想。
quote: a passage or expression that is quoted or cited The author frequently quoted Shakespeare. 作者不断地引用莎士比亚的话。 Don't quote me on this, but I think the company is in serious difficulties. 不要向公司重复我所说的, 可我认为公司面临着严 重的困难。 She quoted from the report to support her point. 她援引报告中的话来支持自己的论点。
undermine: destroy property or hinder normal operations Illness undermined his strength. 疾病逐渐削弱了他的力气。 Many severe colds undermined the old man's health. 多次严重的感冒损害了老人的健康。 Insults undermined her confidence. 一再受到侮辱之后, 她渐渐丧失信心。
alluring: highly attractive and able to arouse hope or desire an alluring advertisement 一幅引人瞩目的广告 The life in a big city is alluring for the young people. 大都市的生活对年轻人颇具诱惑力。
1. As sport and leisure have been shown to occupy about 10 per cent of conversation time, discussion of football could well account for the difference. (Para 1) In one study, males gossiped 55 per cent of the time and women for 67 per cent of the time; however, this difference could be explained by another research finding that about 10 per cent of conversation time is spent talking about sport (at least, this explanation works if you think that men talk about football and women do not). Sentences
2. On further questioning, however, the difference turned out to be more a matter of semantics than practice: What the women were happy to call “ gossip ”, the men defined as “ exchanging information ”. (Para 4) When they asked a bit more, the difference was more about the meaning of the word than about what they actually did: What the women called “gossip”, the men called “exchagning information” although the women and men were talking about the same activity.
3. Clearly, there is a stigma attached to gossip among English males, and unwritten rule to the effect that, even if what one is doing is gossiping, it should be called something else. (Para 5) English men feel there is something wrong or embarrassing about gossip and that there is a rule which is not written down, that is, if you are gossiping, you should give the activity another name.
4. For women, this detailed speculation about possible motives and causes, requiring an exhaustive raking over “ history ”, is a crucial element of gossip. (Para 8) For women there is an extremely important aspect of gossip – this is that they make guesses with details about why something might have happened. This means they feel they have to go over unpleasant aspects of the story in the past that other people do not want to talk about.
Exercises 1). Match the words with their definitions. 1. in a way that is impossible to doubt and easy to see (decidedly) 2. the reason that you do something (motive) 3. main, or most important (principal) 4. with qualities thought to be typical of men (masculine) 5. to criticize something, or to suggest it is not good enough for you (sniff) 6. lively or active (animated)
2). Replace the underlined words with the correct form. 1. Cultural and intellectual programmes tend to be broadcast very late in the evening. (highbrow) 2. At the beginning I was very shy, but I soon got to know everyone and made friends. (initially) 3. The course I enjoyed most when I was studying linguistics was the one on the relationship between words and meanings. (semantics) 4. To find out more about English as a world language, we need reliable people who are able to give information. (informants) 5. She sent me a bunch of roses when I got the job, and I did the same when she got promoted. (reciprocated) 6. For some men there is still a feeling of embarrassment and unease about taking orders from a female superior. (stigma)
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