"What think ye, gossips?"

Illustration from the 1920 edition (detail)
Public DomainIllustration from the 1920 edition (detail) - Credit: Hugh Thomson
The Oxford English Dictionary records that “gossip” originally derived from “godsibb” — literally, god-related — and was applied to “one who has contracted spiritual affinity with another by acting as a sponsor at a baptism.” From this developed a looser usage simply meaning “friend.” Hawthorne is punning on this archaic sense and the now-prevalent one describing a person given to intrusive tittle-tattle.