Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Mon Aug 12 11:17:43 UTC 2013

"Chatter" has been around signals intelligence community for quite some
time, long before the internet became a thing. My guess is that "radio
chatter" would be the original, going back to WWII, if not earlier. I've
turned up a few instances of "chatter" used in connection with radio
transmissions in Tom Clancy's 1986 "Red Storm Rising" and his 1988 "Cardinal
of the Kremlin." I'm sure antedatings can be easily found.

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of
Victor Steinbok
Sent: Monday, August 12, 2013 2:32 AM
Subject: chatter

OED lacks a definition of "chatter" that relates to contemporary electronic
surveillance issues--the kind of "internet chatter" that led to the shutdown
of 19 US embassies and consulates last week ( Some
take the meaning even further
( One guest on a Fox News
show--a retired "intelligence agent"--complained incessantly that the word
was misleading and perpetrated on the intelligence community by politicians.

There are even broad definitions of "internet chatter":
> Why did /The Avengers/ blow the roof off the box office, while
> /Battleship /sank to the bottom of the sea? Blame internet chatter.
> The number of times a film is mentioned in blog posts and social media
> strongly reflects how much money it is pulling in at the box office,
> according to a new model developed by Japanese physicists.

I have little evidence for the origin of the term, but I strongly suspect
that blaming political briefing officers for the coinage is just wrong.

Tooth "chatter" is noted in Macmillan and AHD, but also isn't in the OED.
OED does list the verb (chatter v. 3.), so "chattering" is covered, but not
the short noun version. Oddly enough, there is a reference to tool noises
(chatter n. 4.) that matches one of the verb definitions (chatter v. 4.),
but that verb definition is a recursion to the tooth one ("Applied to
similar sounds").


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