• I Heard It Through The Grapevine: Explaining The Saying With Help From Marvin Gaye

    Many students of mine have asked me about the saying:

    I heard it through the grapevine.

    “What does this mean,” they ask me, bemused. “It makes no sense.”

    Well, actually it does make sense to English speakers. To hear something through the grapevine means to hear some news or gossip verbally, or in an informal fashion.

    We say “I heard it through the grapevine” generally when we want to protect our sources and don’t want to reveal where our information came from.

    The grapevine was informal slang for the telegraph, a word-of-mouth communication network that was used in the US in the late 19th century.

    The telegraph was soon christened the ‘grapevine telegraph’ because it physically looked like the twisting grapevines found in a vineyard due to poor workmanship in hoisting the telegraph poles and cables.

    Saying information came from the ‘grapevine’ also suggests it is gossip among the lower classes who were generally found working in vineyards.

    There was also the suggestion that information coming ‘through the grapevine’ wasn’t the most reliable since during the US Civil War messages carried by word of mouth were often intercepted and changed.

    Let’s listen to the song that made the saying famous sung by Marvin Gaye.

    What news do you think he heard through the grapevine?

    What were the consequences of what he heard?

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