Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Saturday, June 6, 2009


According to the OED online, here is what "eavesdrop" means (not a surprising definition):

"To stand within the ‘eavesdrop’ of a house in order to listen to secrets; hence, to listen secretly to private conversation."

The earliest quoted example in the OED is from 1606, in case anyone asks or happens to be eavesdropping when you are discussing the word.


A man stepped out of a cafe,
holding a telephone-wafer
to one ear. I assumed he
left so as to be polite,
to secure a less fully
public space, and/or to
align the wafer with a
floating satellite. I
was already outside.

"In life," he said to
someone--and to anyone
within earshot, including
me, "there is a concept
called, 'reciprocity.'"

He paused to listen before
defining the term for his
intended interlocutor. Before
I began seriously to eavesdrop,
I left him to his conversation.

Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom
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