phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Heard It Through The Grapevine

Posted by James Briggs on June 12, 2003

In Reply to: Heard It Through The Grapevine posted by ESC on June 12, 2003

: : Does anyone know where the phrase "heard it through the grapevine" came from?
: : Thanks!

: From the archives:

: ??grapevines were associated with telegraph lines somewhere along the line, for by the time of the Civil war a report by ?grapevine telegraph? was common slang for a rumor. The idea behind the expression is probably not rumors sent over real telegraph lines, but the telegraphic speed with which rumor mongers can transmit canards with their own rude mouth-to-mouth telegraph system.? From the ?Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins? by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997).

In the early days of telegraphy, US 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.