Blog: Ask Professor Nick

Rumor vs. Grapevine

Dear Professor Nick.

I am a girl from Denmark who currently writes an exam paper on rumors. I am facing a big obstacle in my assignment that I cannot seem to find the answer to – therefore, I was really hoping that you might be willing to help me.

The thing is, that I need to state the distinction/ differences between rumors and grapevine (just in brief). I seriously thought that this would be an easy task, but I was certainly proved wrong. The different authors are either:

referring to the concepts as being the same thing
or that rumors are a part of the grapevine
or that rumors are created from the grapevine (when the grapevine gets sour) – meaning that they are two different things (here grapevine is seen as the positive thing and rumors as the negative).

If you would be so kind, I desperately hope that you would tell me which of these 3 possibilities stated above that carries the correct answer of the concepts.

Thank you very much

Kind regards,

[Girl from Denmark]

Dear [Girl from Denmark],

You have discovered that sometimes terminology is not universally agreed upon. I can give you my best assessment of what these terms mean; I hope it will be helpful.

Grapevine refers to informal channels of communication. When you say “I heard it through the grapevine”, you mean that you heard it informally from a friend or coworker, for example, rather than from a memo, the newspaper, or an official announcement at a meeting (these last examples would be called formal channels of communication).

Rumor is one type of statement that is communicated through the grapevine, and it is also one type of discussion that occurs on the grapevine. Hearing from a friend: “I heard that Mrs. Beamster the librarian drives an expensive sports car” would be an example of a rumor on the grapevine. These rumor statements can circulate and recirculates as the group discusses Mrs. Beamster’s automobile—this is an example of a rumor discussion on the grapevine.

What are rumors? They are unverified statements in circulation. To make this a little clearer, news (“The prime minister won the election yesterday”) is information that has been verified.

Now, both types of information (rumors and non-rumors, such as news) can circulate on the grapevine. You see that, yes? I can hear both an unverified rumor (Beamster drives a sports car I think) and verified news (I read today in The Times that Clinton won the election). However, in my opinion, most of the statements on a grapevine are unverified information statements. I base this on the grapevine studies. When I read the studies by grapevine researchers, the statements they discuss are undoubtedly rumors. Despite this, some grapevine researchers (Keith Davis, for e.g.) say that rumors are negative and false information statements on the grapevine, and only a small subset of grapevine information. I disagree with him on this point; it is clear from his writings that most of what he studied with regard to the grapevine is actually rumor.

I hope this was helpful. Please let me know how it goes.

Best regards,
Nicholas DiFonzo, Ph.D.

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16 CommentsAdd your own

  1. nai naga |
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

    thank you very much about this.. it helps a lot in my report…

  2. Victoria |
    Posted March 6, 2012 at 3:18 am | Permalink

    Am not too clear with the difference between rumour and grapevine.

  3. ahmad tasiu zaki. |
    Posted March 29, 2013 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    thanks for the answer.

  4. Akhigbe festus |
    Posted May 16, 2013 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    I think rumour to some extent is differet from grapevine..

  5. victoria |
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Tanks 4 the answer

  6. Victoria otis |
    Posted June 6, 2015 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    I still am not entirely clear on the differences. If rumour is an unverified statement in circulation in the grapevine, is the grapevine not still an unverified information? Pls in clear definition, what then is grapevine? Because i think they are both thesame just different terminologies.

  7. sandrine iko |
    Posted April 27, 2016 at 1:45 am | Permalink

    thanks very much for the differences prof i treally helped me on a field studies

  8. Akinniyi Babatunde James |
    Posted June 3, 2016 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    I really Appreciate ur point Prof. It has actually helped me in my Assignment. Babatunde A.J. from Abuja, Nigeria.

  9. Aminu |
    Posted June 17, 2016 at 5:23 am | Permalink

    Thanks very much this gives answer to part of my examination question

  10. Posted October 3, 2016 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for finallу writing about > Rumor ᴠs.

    Graapevine < Loved it!

  11. Awung |
    Posted November 4, 2016 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Thank you Prof for that explanation.

  12. Adekunle Moses Ogundepo |
    Posted November 5, 2016 at 3:02 am | Permalink

    They’re both gossip when it comes to similarities….and the only difference is that ‘grapevine’ has source while ‘rumor’ doesn’t…

  13. SOP NIGERIA |
    Posted November 18, 2016 at 3:25 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the message sir!

  14. Forence |
    Posted November 24, 2016 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    I really appreciate ur clear input

  15. Saffana |
    Posted May 14, 2017 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    Thank you so much 🙂

    –from India

  16. Geofrey |
    Posted August 20, 2017 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Thanks..i get to understand that a grapevine in informal way of communication where a rumour is just a way of passing out the grapevine

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