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- 1 Opening comments
- 2 A written version
- 3 Example used in text
- 4 Chinese is offensive
- 5 Requested move 2006
- 6 Name, references, changes
- 7 History?
- 8 Spanish
- 9 Versions
- 10 Religion/Urban Legends
- 11 "See Also"?
- 12 "reflects the former stereotype in Europe"
- 13 Serbian broken telephone.
- 14 Accuracy question
- 15 No source supports statement that Chinese whispers is used in ESL
- 16 Pre-invention of telephone - name?
- 17 Whisper Down The Lane?
- 18 Jack Parr's TV version
- 19 3 billion-7 billion
- 20 History + Yoko Ono
- 21 Why Chinese?
- 22 Ambiguous sentence
- 23 Requested move 8 June 2015
- 24 Comments on move
- 25 Still racist, at least ignorant
Just a quick question regarding the page move (Telephone game -> Telephone (game)): is it really generally referred to as "telephone", rather than, say, "the telephone game" (or, indeed "that telephone game"). I don't claim to know - I have only ever known it as "Chinese whispers", but it just surprises me that that should be the usage somehow. - IMSoP 04:23, 9 Mar 2004 (UTC)
- Yup, I've heard it referred to as "Telephone." Brian Kendig 19:53, 12 Apr 2004 (UTC)
- Fair enough then. - IMSoP 19:16, 22 May 2004 (UTC)
I noticed somebody decided to link the word "Chinese" in "Chinese whispers". I'm going to take it back out, because a) it looks ugly having a link in the middle of an alternative title (note that Chinese whispers redirects here); and b) I gather it's not entirely certain whether the name refers to China, the Chinese language, or is completely erroneous and doesn't really mean anything at all. If you disagree, however, feel free to say so. - IMSoP 19:16, 22 May 2004 (UTC)
- "Chinese" seems to be used here as a meaningless adjective, as in "Chinese fire drill". Philwelch 18:23, 13 Dec 2004 (UTC)
- I also believe that the term "Chinese" here is being used in the same manner as it is used in "Chinese fire drill," but not as a meaningless adjective. There, the term "Chinese" means confused or disoriented (check the "Chinese fire drill" article here on Wikipedia). The name "Chinese whispers" for this game honestly struck me as borderline-derogatory at first glance (having never heard of the term myself). 188.8.131.52 17:22, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
We used to play this game at kindergarten and it was called a Broken Telephone/Gossip. I'm from Finland, and I haven't heard about the game referred as "Chinese whispers". Heidi, 14 August 2006
A written version
When I was at school we once played a written version of this kind of game. The idea is that we are shown a sentence for a few seconds, have to memorise it and then write it down to pass on to the next person. Effectively it's testing memory rather than sense of hearing. Is there a name for this game? -- Smjg 17:03, 14 December 2005 (UTC)
Example used in text
I am intrigued as to why the example was chosen "Johnny can you please pick up the pencil that you dropped, and please remember to take your homework with you to school tomorrow."
It appeared anonymously in : Revision as of 14:52, 14 October 2005 184.108.40.206 (Talk | contribs)
I'm not sure an example is required at all, but why was this one chosen?
--Parasite 02:57, 4 February 2006 (UTC)
Chinese is offensive
Would it be possible to make the main page for this article "Broken Telephone" and redirect from "Chinese Whispers", listing "Chinese Whispers (offensive - racist)" as an alternative name for this game? Chinese is not used here as a meaningless adjective, but comes from the British colonial attitude to the Chinese, as gossipers who spread false information. Jane 10:20, 27 August 2006 (UTC)
- The name "Chinese Whispers" is not used in any racist or derogatory context. The name (at least where I live, in Australia, where I have only ever heard the name "Chinese Whispers" for the game) is completely neutral to the point where someone calling it racist didn't even come to mind until I read this page. To label it "Chinese Whispers (offensive - racist)" would be making a value judgement on the name and hence unencyclopaedic, not to mention ridiculously hypersensitive. --lbft 14:47, 11 September 2006 (UTC)
- Actually, that's false. People may have been ignorant about it in time, but there was once a whole gaggle of phrases that were couched in the fact that the British believed that the Chinese were inferior, and therefore the word "Chinese" was used to indicate confusion or disorganization. See . Other words of this ilk included Chinese fire drill and Chinese puzzle. You'd be surprised at how many phrases seem innocent (and this one doesn't even seem innocent) until you learn their backstory. ColourBurst 02:04, 22 September 2006 (UTC)
- I daresay that, if the backstory is just backstory and not part of the contemporary understanding, then the 'Chinese' is merely a historical artifact that does not carry any intentionally offensive or racist overtones. Believe it or not, things do change meaning over time.
- In any case, even if you personally regard the name as offensive, I couldn't find anything in WP:NAME stating that you should avoid naming an article something if it is liable to offend some, but rather that you should name it under the most common English name. If 'Chinese whispers' isn't the most common English name, then by all means move away. --lbft 15:28, 23 September 2006 (UTC)
- "Broken telephone" beats "chinese whispers" 15:1 in a Google Fight. --Doradus 01:50, 10 October 2006 (UTC)
- rename -google test Spencerk 03:31, 10 October 2006 (UTC)
- I've always known it as "Telephone". Incidentally, if you put the phrases in quotation marks, , Chinese whispers beats Broken telephone 4:1. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Geoffreynham (talk • contribs) 14:25, October 29, 2006 (UTC).
- Lbft, the backstory is part of the contemporary understanding. If multiple people come to this talk page to complain that it's offensive, then that doesn't necessarily mean they're being anachronistic - it means that their contemporary understanding of the term is that it's offensive. Note Wikipedia:Naming conventions (identity) says when in doubt, aim for neutrality: Some terms are considered pejorative, or have negative associations, even if they are quite commonly used. schi talk 22:42, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
- "Broken telephone" beats "chinese whispers" 15:1 in a Google Fight. --Doradus 01:50, 10 October 2006 (UTC)
- The expression 'Chinese whispers' is not used in an offensive way today, and neither is it evolved from offensive roots. The prefixing 'Chinese', as the article states, simply denotes the difficulty Europeans had understanding the Chinese language; not because the language is 'garbled' or any way inferior, but because they are very different languages that have developed extremely independently of each other. While some phrases prefixed with 'Chinese, like 'Chinese fire drill', are indeed offensive, this one uses the adjective differently. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 220.127.116.11 (talk) 15:20, 22 September 2007 (UTC)
To all the people accusing the offended parties of being "hypersensitive," please take a look at the Chinese fire drill page on Wikipedia which has already been linked to a number of times. Just because you cannot see how another might take offense does not mean the term is inoffensive. The slang term "gyp" for instance; I'm sure most users of this word have no idea where it comes from (at least I didn't until just recently) and yet I doubt any of them would blame someone that does for taking offense. At the very least there should be a short discussion on the topic of the possibly offensive origins of the term "Chinese whispers" as was done in the Chinese fire drill article.
- I could not agree more. The title of this article needs to be changed. The word "Chinese" has a very specific meaning here: disorganized and inefficient. The etymology of the word doesn't matter: "Chinese whispers" describes a game involving confused whispering; "whispers" alone does not; therefore, "Chinese" must be the part of the phrase that denotes confusion.
- I can think of other phrases based on this usage -- "Chinese gift exchange" comes to mind -- that friends of mine with Asian background find offensive. I mean -- I find it offensive, let's put it that way (full disclosure: I am of European extraction).
- Please, do not change the name! This would be an embarrassing excess of political correctness. The name "Chinese" does indicate confusion but only because, to English speakers, Chinese is a language spoken by a comparable fraction of the globe (to English), but is one of the more distantly related languages and therefore one of the hardest to learn. This directly reflects the point of the game, which is that the speaker is essentially speaking the language *phonetically* and without semantic understanding. Compare this to David Searle's philosophical construct of the Chinese room -- the point is exactly the same! Yet there is no discussion of racism or offensiveness on the talk page for that article. To rename this article would obscure this relevant connection. The alternate names of "Russian Scandal" and "Arab Telephone" again suggest that the nationalities in the name are (in contemporary usage) signifying the fact that the speaker has no semantic context with which to error-check the message. As an English person who has moved to America, I find it admirable that diverse and multi-ethnic Americans are concerned with the connotations of this assumption, especially its potential reflection of jingoistic attitudes (though frankly I think these have been lost in the mists of time). I suppose the etymology may have involved jingoism, though evidence of this has not yet been presented. However, accusations of racism based purely on a knee-jerk reaction to seeing the word "Chinese" in the name (rather than actually digging into the context) reflect a "Chinese Whispers" mode of editing Wikipedia articles, and would obscure the link to the Chinese Room... Ian Henty Holmes (talk) 19:00, 24 November 2008 (UTC)
- If I'm not mistaken, I think the term "Chinese Whispers" as a name for this game alludes to the fact that the Chinese language relies on intonation/inflection of speech for meaning. The same "word" with different intonation or inflection would have different meanings in Chinese. Thus, one person whispering something to another in Chinese would have a much higher chance of being misconstrued down the line. Sup3rmark (talk) 21:27, 25 January 2012 (UTC)
- That said, I don't see any reason why "Chinese Whispers" shouldn't redirect transparently to a "Telephone" article. I see below that there was a vote; how upsetting that no decision was reached. Solemnavalanche 15:15, 17 March 2007 (UTC)
What word can't be termed "offensive" these days? Let it go. It's the title of the game, not a slap in anyone's face. If people want to argue about this then maybe they should be finding something better to do with their time.
Don't just redirect - I came to this page due to concern about the name "Chinese whispers" as well as to find a less offensive name that people I know might still recognise, this article confirmed the name can be considered offensive and also provides context for why it was called that, so unless a "Telephone" article is going to specifically talk about the connotations/history of the name "Chinese whispers", then I'd rather it didn't just redirect to a generic "Telephone" article, details of how the game is played was not what I was interested in. Perhaps it could be a stub with a link to "Main article: Broken Telephone"? Treer (talk) 06:12, 24 May 2012 (UTC)
I agree with the above comment to have this page renamed from Chinese Whispers to Telephone. I understand the etymology but still find it offensive especially for a child's game intended to show errors in human communication. Telephone is better in that you don't have to explain why it is not offensive and it is a widely accepted name for the game. We can easily leave a section saying this game is also known as "Chinese Whispers" and then explain the history for that name. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Jamesmarkchan (talk • contribs) 13:31, 31 December 2013 (UTC)
Requested move 2006
Name, references, changes
I've made some edits, mainly to add references in the light of the foregoing debate. I removed some bits:
- This describes not the game, but the error it seeks to caution against:
- An apocryphal story in the UK is of a general who sent the message "Send reinforcements, we are going to advance" back to HQ. After passing through many intermediaries it finally arrived as "Send three and fourpence, we are going to a dance".
- I don't see how the line can fail to be completed:
- Even if the line is not completed, the last few people to receive the message can compare this with the original
- The second half is vague and redundant:
I think the article should be moved to Telephone game. The only argument against seems to be that political correctness is not a reason to move; but in any case the history shows the article was first at Telephone game and later moved to Chinese whispers; so by the priority principle it should not have been moved. Having said which, all the references I've added use "Chinese whispers"...
I think the current examples are rather trivial and not illustrative of the game; they exploit its familiarity for humour, which is not helpful to a reader seeking to understand a game they do not already know. If there is a published account of one or more actual games, it would be more useful: whether gleaned from some dry academic tome, or from a journalistic colour-piece, or from a self-indulgent memoir. jnestorius(talk) 22:51, 23 February 2007 (UTC)
Seems to me like the so-claimed military history is more of an urban legend. Otherwise, why does everyone on the net refer to "a general", but nobody says who he was, and apart from one instance, in what war it was?Ladypine 21:52, 30 March 2007 (UTC)
- Spanish: el teléfono estropeado/dañado/descompuesto ("broken telephone") el telefonito
The spanish line seems wrong. Seems like it says "the tiny telephone" at the end of the line. Is this an alternative name? Or should this not be there at all?Ladypine 22:12, 30 March 2007 (UTC)
- ¡Listo! Removed the "telefonito" mention, which I imagine was added by someone who calls it that in their region. —SaulPerdomo 00:21, 26 October 2007 (UTC)
The children sit in a circle and the originator on the message coming back to them gives both original and end versions. Jackiespeel 18:07, 24 September 2007 (UTC)
There could be correlation of how urban legends begin and slowly get exaggerated, maybe also helping explain how Jesus goes from preacher of peace to son of God etc.
How? The Old Testament was written with an original copy always there and if you had to copy "see Spot run," you would look and see "s" write "s", look back see "e" write "e", look back see a space put in a space, look back see "S" write "S", look back see "p" wrieete "p", look back see "o" write "o", look back see, well, you get the idea.
here's a comparison of never doubted ancient work and the new testament Author Written Earliest Copies Time Span # of Copies
Caesar (Gallic Wars) 100-44 BC c. AD 900 c. 1,000 years 10
Plato (Tetralogies) 427-347 BC c. AD 900 c. 1,300 years 7
Thucydides (History) 460-400 BC c. AD 900 c. 1,300 years 8
Sophocles 496-406 BC c. AD 1,000 c. 1,400 years 100
Catullus 54 BC c. AD 1,550 c. 1,600 years 3
Euripides 480-406 BC c. AD 1,100 c. 1,500 years 9
Aristotle 384-322 BC c. AD 1,100 c. 1,400 years 5
Homer (Iliad) 800 BC c. 400 BC c. 400 years 643
Herodotus (History) 480-425 BC c. AD 900 c. 1,350 years 8
Demosthenes 300 BC c. AD 1100 c. 1,400 years 200
Livy (History of Rome) 59 BC c. 350 (partial) c. 400 years 1 partial
to AD 17 c. 10th century c. 1,000 years 19
(Natural History) 61-113 c. AD 850 c. 750 years 7
New Testament AD 40-100 AD 125 25 years 24,000+
Among the links at the bottom to other wiki-articles is the link translation relay, which redirects to this article. Either the link should be removed or a separate article for translation relay should be made. Akatari (talk) 16:58, 31 January 2008 (UTC)
- I'm not sure, but I think there might have once been a separate translation relay article which was turned into a redirect to this page. If so, either the material from it wasn't merged into this page or it's gotten lost since then.
- There's some similarity between the games but the multilingual nature of the translation relay game makes it fundamentally different, I think. I'll do some research when I have books handy and write a section for this article which could be spun off to another article later. Sarah Higley talks a little about constructed language translation relay games in her book Hildegard of Bingen's Unknown Language, and Douglas Hofstadter talks about a translation relay game using natural languages that was done by a group of professional translators ome years ago in his Le Ton Beau de Marot. --Jim Henry (talk) 19:42, 19 August 2008 (UTC)
I was going to write another Translation relay article if nobody objected to my above comment in a week or two, but it seems that the former "Translation relay" article went through AfD in November 2007 and was theoretically supposed to have been merged into this article, but apparently was just deleted tout court. I'll add a section to this article instead, when I finish some work I'm doing on the History section of International auxiliary language.
I personally think translation relay games are different enough from the "Telephone game" (or "Chinese whispers" if you insist) that it deserves a separate article, but unless someone else backs me up on this, I fear yet another AfD if I recreate a separate article. --Jim Henry (talk) 17:14, 8 September 2008 (UTC)
- Agreed, translation relays are not the same game as Chinese whispers. The mechanism of distortion in the latter is mishearing; in the former, it's a combination of lexical and grammatical divisions in two languages not matching one-to-one, and misunderstandings of points of the grammar. To my eye they're about as different to each other as either is to Eat Poop You Cat, whose mechanism is misinterpretation of drawings, and I don't suppose anyone would merge that game here.
- I think Mandsford had misapprised what a translation relay was when he voted Merge on the last VfD: he seemed to think the game was nothing more than the "back and forth through Babelfish" game. And I note the old article didn't include the citation to the example noted in lTBdM (which I don't remember the details of offhand, but it's certainly there), which if present would give it some resistance against the deletionist raptors. 4pq1injbok (talk) 20:21, 2 March 2009 (UTC)
"reflects the former stereotype in Europe"
Serbian broken telephone.
I question the accuracy of the unsourced statements in what is now the third paragraph of the lead. It is my understanding that the errors in the retellings accumulate precisely because the players do understand the statement, but make cognitive errors in hearing and attempting to quote it. When the company then known as Mead Data Central created one of the first large-scale indexed, searchable text databases by manually keying-in text (Lexis), it found that typists who did not know the language of the text that they were copying were more accurate than native speakers of the language. Native speakers typed the word that they thought they saw, and understood, whereas typists who did not understand the language more carefully copied the text character-by-character. Unless reliable sources are supplied for these statements, including their applicability to the game that is the subject of the article, within about 2 weeks, I intend to delete this paragraph. Finell (Talk) 18:53, 6 December 2008 (UTC)
No source supports statement that Chinese whispers is used in ESL
I deleted the statement, in the Purpose section, that the game of Chinese whispers is used in ESL classes. The external link that was at the end of that statement does not support the statement. The link, to a page on a web site developed by one ESL teacher, describes The Charades Race Game. In explaining how to play Charades Race, the page describes the Telephone Game (i.e., Chinese whispers) as an analogy or comparison. The page does not say that Telephone (i.e., Chinese whispers) itself is played in ESL classrooms. Furthermore, the same site has a list of ESL Classroom Games. Chinese whispers is not on that list; Charades Race is. Again, this second page mentions Chinese whispers to help describe Charades Race. Please do not restore the statement about using Chinese whispers in ESL without a citation that supports the statement and that meets Wikipedia's standards for reliable sources. This Web site, the product of one teacher, probably would not qualify as a reliable source in any event. Thank you. Finell (Talk) 00:18, 10 January 2009 (UTC)
Pre-invention of telephone - name?
This is such a simple game that I'm sure it was played before the invention of the telephone. In countries where "telephone (game)" is now the usual name for it, what was it called then? Was it "Chinese whispers" as it still is in the UK etc, or something else entirely? 18.104.22.168 (talk) 17:23, 26 February 2009 (UTC)
- I've never heard the game being called Chinese whispers. Only in the context of "the game is alss known as Chinese whispers". The game was always introduced and called 'Telephone' for me.
- -G —Preceding unsigned comment added by 22.214.171.124 (talk) 23:09, 3 April 2009 (UTC)
Whisper Down The Lane?
I have never heard of the "Telephone Game" or "Chinese Whispers". I am from Pennsylvania, USA. This same game however, was always referred to as "Whisper down the lane". Is this common any where else? Should this be added as another name for the same game? It seems the wikipedia redirects "Whisper down the lane" to Chinese Whispers, but other than that, no other mention to this title is made. Is this a local name only? —Preceding unsigned comment added by 126.96.36.199 (talk) 03:06, 1 May 2009 (UTC)
Jack Parr's TV version
This was a standard bit on the old Jack Parr show. He would assemble a bunch of celebrities, each pair of whom spoke two different languages. He would start the story in English, and each celebrity would then translate the story to the next person in another language both understood. At the end when it had gone through many translations, it was translated back into English, and of course it was very different from the original version, often incomprehensible, much to the delight of the audience. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 188.8.131.52 (talk) 15:32, 7 November 2011 (UTC)
3 billion-7 billion
The entire worlds population plays this game daily... Are they interpreting this game as anybody who gossips plays the game? Then I could see that being relevant.. Maybe. lol 2602:4B:7996:5500:7448:E325:473D:B747 (talk) 04:13, 1 February 2014 (UTC)
History + Yoko Ono
Is there any evidence to support an origin story? I ask because in Yoko Ono's Grapefruit, I find the following: "WHISPER PIECE / Whisper. / This piece was originally called a telephone piece, and was the starting of the word-of-mouth pieces. It is usually performed by the performer whispering a word or a note into an audience's ear and asking to have it passed on until it reaches the last person in the audience." Did Ono invent this game? No likely. But I would like to know. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Jmuse99 (talk • contribs) 23:32, 3 February 2014 (UTC)
(seemed like the closest area to put this) None of these seem to answer this as much as what I found my time living in Taiwan. Chinese people don't like to give bad news directly, they didn't want to be direct or blunt or ruin their relationship with that person. The news would be given through a third party so as not to offend or hurt anyones pride. Because of this the message sometimes could lose some of it's meaning. I had a friend try to give me the news that something they had promised they wouldn't be able to do. Their friends would tell me that it was probably not going to happen a few times but as the message didn't come from my friend I ignored it as I would of expected them to speak to me directly. I can see that this way of communication is like Chinese whispers as the meaning may change. DW — Preceding unsigned comment added by 184.108.40.206 (talk) 10:32, 25 July 2014 (UTC)
Requested move 8 June 2015
Comments on move
Just for the record, I'd like to note that the 2 IP addresses who opposed were very not convincing as far as I'm concerned. There is a solid argument on WP:TITLEVAR per RGlouster that the title shouldn't be messed with after so long, but 2 IP addies claiming that it's called "Chinese Whispers" in the US smells fishy to me. I never heard of "Chinese Whispers" until the above MR as an American, so the usage appears rare at least.
I do think it's too bad the closer didn't address the WP:RETAIN argument. I can see the no consensus close regardless, but the RETAIN argument is very strong IMHO and the main reason to do the move, regardless of issues of causing offense or not. SnowFire (talk) 21:46, 18 June 2015 (UTC)
- If you don't agree with it, you can always ask for a move review. I too thought the same thing, that RETAIN was a pretty good argument (as was ENGVAR) for restoring back to how the article was originally titled. It does seem that once an article gets a British English title, that restoring back to the original title goes out the window, and one must RETAIN the British English, at all costs. I obviously have views on this, so I will not be asking for a move review, if someone without a dog in this fight wants to and feels that is warranted, by all means. ~ipuser 220.127.116.11 (talk) 08:12, 19 June 2015 (UTC)
Still racist, at least ignorant
You can't deny that this term is not ignorant because it clearly mentions "Europeans' inability to understand China's culture" and "Westerners' use of the word Chinese to denote 'confusion' and 'incomprehensibility'". Besides, Europeans and Westerners is wrong. It's only English. No article in any other language is titled "Chinese". --18.104.22.168 (talk) 21:45, 12 August 2015 (UTC)