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Vanity Fair (May 17) carried an article titled, “Megyn Kelly calls out Fox News colleagues for not supporting her.” There was the following line:

Appearing on Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live — a nightly talk show hosted by Andy Cohen — Kelly dished about her months-long battle with the candidate and spilled dirt about her Fox News colleagues.

Though I can find an idiom, “dish the dirt,” meaning spreading a rumor in an English dictionary at hand, I cannot find the entries of both idioms of “dish about” and “spill dirt” in either Oxford or Cambridge English Dictionary.

I guess “dish out” means to reveal, and “spill dirt” means to criticize, but I’m not sure.

What does the last line - Kelly dished about her months-long battle with the candidate and spilled dirt about her Fox News colleagues – mean? Are both “dish about” and “spill dirt” popular tropes?

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    Generally, I interpret "dished" (in this sense) to mean "gossiped". I would hope that "spilling dirt" is an obvious metaphor for revealing unflattering information.
    – Hot Licks
    May 18, 2016 at 2:19
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    This question is about English Language and its Usage. I don't understand the downvote.
    – user140086
    May 18, 2016 at 4:32
  • @Rathony. There is someone who habittually down-votes my question as soon as I post it. Maybe he or she doesn't like me rather than my question. I don't mind who he / she is because the down-vote or close vote is always recovered thanks to up or re-open votes of other users. May 18, 2016 at 8:28

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Dished about in this sentence means she talked about something--she served up some comments for the consideration of her listeners. These comments were not necessarily negative. If it had said dished the dirt, that would mean she made negative comments about someone else (she engaged in gossip).

Spilled dirt about means she revealed unflattering qualities of her colleagues.

These are idiomatic, but you won't find them in a book because they are variations on the more standard idioms you refer to. My guess is that the writer of this story considers the originals passé, trite, cliché, and has changed them up to make for edgier, hipper writing. Or, possibly, he picked them up from another writer--the point is that they are variants, not the originals.

There's another cliche, spill the beans, which means to reveal secrets, so spill dirt is a conflation of spill the beans and dish the dirt--not simply making negative comments, but revealing negative facts about someone.

Clearly the writer is updating these idioms, and it works nicely, IMO, though it is tricky, even if you're fluent. If you're not, it can be impossible.

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Dish something out is an idiomatic expression that means:

  • to give or say things to people without thinking about them carefully:
    • He's very keen to dish out criticism.

With a simila meaning, to dish about refers to intentionally let people know facts that she could have kept to herself. In fact she continues and spills dirt about her colleges, that is she probably made harsh comments on them.

to spill out:

  • to talk about or express an emotion freely:

    • I listened quietly as she spilled out all her anger and despair.

Dirt [U] (Gossip)

  • informal unpleasant or bad details about someone's private life that are repeated or published to influence people's opinion of them in a negative way:
    • Journalists are always digging for (= trying to discover) dirt.

(Cambridge Dictionary)

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