I am not sure about chatter; maybe it is some mode of escapism. It seems that small talk seeks to find common ground. Simple common ground may be all that it seeks, as in discussing the Vikings or the weather with a neighbor. Or the common ground sought may be a spring board for more in depth discussion.
I think that's a nice distinction. I also think small talk has a value in and of itself, whereas idle chatter does not.
Unless, of course, you are the CIA listening in on the "chatter" they are interested in. :-)
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