What is the meaning and origin of "heard it on the grapevine"?
Gossip. How we all love it. It's music to our ears! When someone gives us some juicy news and warns us not to tell anyone, what is it that we normally do? We promptly pass on the information to someone else and ask that individual to keep it under his hat. But he in turn informs someone else; and on and on it goes. This is what we mean by the expression "hear something on/through the grapevine". It's information you hear from someone who in turn has heard it from someone else! The information therefore may or may not be totally reliable. Here are a few examples.
* Mahesh heard through the grapevine that he was being promoted.
* We heard through the grapevine that the students were unhappy with the course.
This is an expression, which has been a part of the English language for well over one hundred years. According to one theory, the idiom came into existence when F. B. Morse came up with the idea of the telegraph.
When Morse managed to send his message "What God hath wrought" over the wire between Washington and Baltimore, many companies got interested in the telegraph. They put up telegraph poles and lines from one place to another. During the early years, the workmanship was very poor; the telegraph lines often crisscrossed. The wires reminded people of the crooked grapevine. Since information was being received through these wires, people came up with the expression "through the grapevine". As to why people began to believe that the information received through the grapevine was unreliable, we have to go back to the American Civil War that took place between 1861 and 1865. During this period, military commanders began to send battlefield reports in the form of telegrams. What the enemy used to do was to send false reports of the same battle and as a result people were unsure which report to believe. Therefore anything heard through the grapevine was considered unreliable.
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