A woman expecting would take her customary lying-in period— disappearing into the quiet, calm, controlled environment of her chamber. I can only imagine Jeopardy music tinkering away in the background as she strummed her fingers over her belly. *Dum dee dum dum, dum dee dum*. Baby, where are you?
During this time, the woman’s company was exclusively female: the midwife and female kinsmen, neighbors, and servants attended her. This ragtag group, abounding with womanly wisdom, were called “gossips”.
And so, the men curiously wondered… “What on earth do you think they are talking about in there?’
This may explain the somewhat malicious connotation of the word “gossip” today. As for “gossiping”, I believe we have dear old Shakespeare to thank for that. The OED has its earliest citation for the phrase “to gossip” from this wonderfully ruff fellow. Interestingly, Shakespeare used the verb with the meaning “to make oneself at home like a gossip—that is, a kindred spirit or a fast friend.”
I will begin to warmly call all my friends “my gossips”.