Posted by James Briggs on February 19, 2003

In Reply to: Grape-Vine posted by S. on February 19, 2003

: Any idea as to how "grape-vine" came to be used figuratively to mean "an informal person-to-person means of circulating information or gossip", i. e., who first used it thusly? Thanks in advance for any information.

This is another with an origin in the USA. In the early days of telegraphy, companies rushed to put up telegraph poles, some made none too well and some actually using trees rather than poles. To some, the tangled wires resembled the wild vines found in California, hence a Grapevine. During the US Civil War the telegraph was used extensively, but the messages were sometime unreliable, hence the association of rumour on the grapevine. The phrase first appeared in print in 1852.

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