Talk:Chinese whispers

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Opening comments[edit]

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)
And, Chinese finger cuffs. --Viriditas | Talk 04:57, 12 Mar 2005 (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). 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

I just have to give massive kudos to whoever added the 'Johnny Dangerously' quote. It's a hilarious and yet an insightful peek into human nature. Ehrichweiss (talk) 17:57, 18 July 2008 (UTC)

A written version[edit]

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)

Use — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:44, 29 May 2013 (UTC)

Example used in text[edit]

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 (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[edit]

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 [1]. 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, [2], Chinese whispers beats Broken telephone 4:1. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Geoffreynham (talkcontribs) 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)
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 (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[1]. 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)
I can't look at your example article because some hypersensitive revisionist deleted it three months ago.  Card Zero  (talk) 11:39, 19 September 2015 (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.

LOL. A way to slap a whole group of people in the face is to name a game intended to demonstrate human miss communication after that group. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Jamesmarkchan (talkcontribs) 14:09, 31 December 2013 (UTC)

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 (talkcontribs) 13:31, 31 December 2013 (UTC)


Requested move 2006[edit]

The following discussion is an archived debate of the proposal. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the debate was} 'No consensus Duja 09:17, 21 December 2006 (UTC) Chinese whispersTelephone (game) — Multiple editors have already expressed that the name "Chinese whispers" is offensive - in keeping with WP:NCI, I propose to aim for neutrality and move the page to another, very common name for the game. schi talk 23:38, 13 December 2006 (UTC)


Add  * '''Support'''  or  * '''Oppose'''  on a new line followed by a brief explanation, then sign your opinion using ~~~~.
  • Support Per nomination. Also open to alternatives like "Broken Telephone", etc., although my understanding is that just plain "Telephone" is the most common. schi talk 23:40, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Support I've never heard of "chinese whispers", it's always been the telephone game to me. Do we really need an article on this at all?  Anþony  talk  04:47, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Oppose Without some evidence that the name 'telephone' is significantly more common I do not believe that this article should be renamed. WP:NCI is irrelevant, especially since in contemporary usage in the name 'Chinese whispers' the word 'Chinese' is an empty fossil word. Hypersensitivity has no place in an encyclopaedia. --lbft (talk) 11:10, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Oppose- I've never heard of this game being called "Telephone". It was always known as "Chinese Whispers" when I was at school, and I agree that anyone offended by the name is simply being hypersensitive. What next, objection to the legal term "Chinese Walls" (describing how the same law firm can work for opposing clients without compromising their integrity or attorney/client privilege etc)?--Commander Zulu 06:24, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
    • And I had not, until coming to this Wikipedia page, ever heard of the game being called "Chinese whispers"; it was always "Telephone" when I was a kid. Note that "Chinese walls" is a term that has been discussed in reliable sources. When I looked up "Chinese whispers" in the OED, it defined it as "Russian scandal", and defined the game under the entry for that. Unless you find a reliable source that shows that "Chinese whispers" is the more common name, I see no reason not to err on the side of neutrality. schi talk 23:12, 16 December 2006 (UTC)

*Weak oppose per more common name. -Part Deux 20:26, 16 December 2006 (UTC)

It seems to be pure speculation as to which name is more common than the other. Per Jayjg's comment below, "Chinese whispers" may be the British name. schi talk 23:12, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
Interesting. I am American, and I will admit that I always heard it as the telephone game. Maybe there's merit to this suggestion. I'll strike my oppose, because if it's not a more common term, and it's possible people will get offended, it might as well go the other way (though this isn't a support statement either: a neutral). Part Deux 01:30, 17 December 2006 (UTC)


Add any additional comments:
  • "Chinese whispers" is the British name. "Broken telephone" is more common elsewhere, and more clear that "Telephone". Jayjg (talk) 22:23, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
"Chinese Whispers" is also the name used in New Zealand and Australia, FWIW. --Commander Zulu 01:22, 21 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Re: lbft's comments above, "Hypersensitivity" is a POV characterization, and I disagree that this is a case of hypersensitivity. WP:NCI is relevant, as I and other editors have indicated that we find the term Chinese whispers offensive, that would suggest that this offensive usage of Chinese is not an "empty fossil word". This could, of course, be due to regional variations; for example, the Wikipedia article on oriental says the term is considered neutral in the UK and other parts of the Commonwealth, but it is certainly considered offensive by many in the U.S. Chinese whispers may be considered totally neutral where you are from, but others have indicated that they find it offensive. schi talk 00:16, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
    • Also note that there are no reliable sources cited in this article regarding the name of the game, that one name is more common than the other, or really, anything else for that matter. schi talk 00:17, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
      • I don't see any references to reliable sources at all in this article. We should delete it rather than worrying about what to call it.  Anþony  talk  00:21, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
        • True, there are no references to reliable sources. It may be difficult to find reliable sources that report on children's games like this. I suppose you could take it to AfD if you want. schi talk 23:12, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
The above discussion is preserved as an archive of the debate. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

Name, references, changes[edit]

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:
The game has been used in schools to simulate the spread of gossip and its harmful effects, and it has implications in many topics, like bureaucracy, religion, politics and Academia.

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)

Religion/Urban Legends[edit]

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

Pliny Secundus

(Natural History) 61-113 c. AD 850 c. 750 years 7

New Testament AD 40-100 AD 125 25 years 24,000+

from Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler, Don't Check Your Brains at the Door, and Josh McDowell, New Evidence that Demands a Verdict (talk) 23:57, 13 June 2013 (UTC)

"See Also"?[edit]

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"[edit]

it is very nice to know each country in europe had the same stereotype. (talk) 09:23, 26 February 2008 (UTC)

Serbian broken telephone.[edit]

In Serbia, we call this game "Deaf Telephones". RocketMaster (talk) 13:09, 29 October 2008 (UTC)

Accuracy question[edit]

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)

Yes check.svg Done Finell (Talk) 04:25, 4 January 2009 (UTC)

No source supports statement that Chinese whispers is used in ESL[edit]

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?[edit]

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? (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 (talk) 23:09, 3 April 2009 (UTC)

Whisper Down The Lane?[edit]

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 (talk) 03:06, 1 May 2009 (UTC)

Jack Parr's TV version[edit]

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 (talk) 15:32, 7 November 2011 (UTC)

3 billion-7 billion[edit]

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[edit]

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 (talkcontribs) 23:32, 3 February 2014 (UTC)

Why Chinese?[edit]

Please add in a history of why Chinese Whispers is called Chinese Whispers. Qwertyxp2000 (talk) 00:14, 28 June 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 (talk) 10:32, 25 July 2014 (UTC)

Ambiguous sentence[edit]

The first sentence reads as follows:
Chinese whispers (or telephone in the United States)...
But is this "telephone" or "Chinese telephone"? (talk) 04:26, 6 November 2014 (UTC)

Requested move 8 June 2015[edit]

The following is a closed discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. Editors desiring to contest the closing decision should consider a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: No consensus. Unclear if the title shows systemic bias. How about 'It's all Greek to me!' Does that disrespect the Greeks? If so then Shakespeare should be embarrassed. Our article on Greek to me has a table of other languages that have been considered obscure at various times. EdJohnston (talk) 22:33, 17 June 2015 (UTC)

Chinese whispersTelephone (game) – Guys, this is really embarrassing. It's the 21st century, and we're supposed to be a global encyclopedia that's written neutrally and free of systemic bias. I love Wikipedia, but this is really personally embarrassing. I couldn't justify this to a friend or colleague. I'm sure many people use this phrase and don't hate Chinese people or anything—that's not the point. It's also not about pushing American English; I will support any reasonable alternative that doesn't disparage a whole group. And if the current title were the only policy-based title available to us here, I'd hold my nose and my tongue. But it's not, so I won't. For the love of Jimbo, rename this page. --BDD (talk) 20:36, 8 June 2015 (UTC)

  • Support. I never even knew it was called "Chinese whispers". Here in Finland, it has always been called "the broken telephone" with no hint of any ethnicity. JIP | Talk 21:43, 8 June 2015 (UTC)
  • Support, I've never heard it referred to as 'Chinese whispers' but as 'telephone' or 'the telephone game'. I don't know why it's called 'telephone', something about pretending you're on a telephone and calling the next person, but that's better and more accurate than 'Chinese whispers', although a redirect should stay if this changed. Good find BDD. Randy Kryn 21:55, 8 June 2015 (UTC)
  • Oppose per WP:NATURAL – Natural disambiguation is always preferable to parenthetical disambiguation. In addition, the present title is the standard term in Britain, New Zealand, and Australia, and should not be changed per WP:TITLEVAR. RGloucester 03:51, 9 June 2015 (UTC)
We could use Telephone game, which has previously been bolded in the lede, for natural disambiguation. --BDD (talk) 13:32, 9 June 2015 (UTC)
  • Support I've only heard it as the "Telephone game" , the only times I've heard it called "Chinese whispers" is in academic contexts (such as the history of games, or people saying various other names that this game has) -- (talk) 04:22, 9 June 2015 (UTC)
  • Support per WP:ASTONISH Red Slash 07:30, 9 June 2015 (UTC)
  • Question BDD How do you see systemic bias here? Please see image search of chinese characters. Currently the article states "Historians trace Westerners' use of the word Chinese to denote "confusion" and "incomprehensibility" to the earliest contacts between Europeans and Chinese people in the 1600s, and attribute it to Europeans' inability to understand China's culture and worldview." The main thing that I see here is an interpretation of linguistic and cultural complexity and an acknowledgement of potential communication problems across cultures. I played the game as a child. My dad was half Japanese and was raised in China though with no very clear visual appearance of origins. In any parties that I attended I didn't see disrespect in any way. It has never been considered an issue then, or as far as I have seen in current situations, since. GregKaye 07:43, 9 June 2015 (UTC)
  • Also can any one present any views on WP:Primary? I did a books search on ("Children's party games" OR "Children's games" OR "games for children") AND (telephone OR "chinese whispers") and, to my surprise, I did not readily find reference to this game by either name. What I found was two other games with variants which were given titles such as "Telephone Game". If a move was made I would suggest that it would be to something like Telephone (children's whispering game). GregKaye 08:15, 9 June 2015 (UTC)
Telephone game is an option. --BDD (talk) 13:32, 9 June 2015 (UTC)
In my books searches "telephone game" related to a different game but in image searches related more to the whispering game. GregKaye 08:41, 10 June 2015 (UTC)
  • Oppose. As a Brit, I've never heard it called anything but "Chinese whispers", and it seems that this is the common usage in Australia and New Zealand too. It would appear only in North America is it called something else. See WP:NATURAL and WP:TITLEVAR. --Rob Sinden (talk) 09:29, 9 June 2015 (UTC)
  • Oppose per WP:TITLEVAR. Khestwol (talk) 11:24, 9 June 2015 (UTC)
  • Everyone saying TITLEVAR means WP:ENGVAR or WP:RETAIN, right? This game doesn't have "strong ties to a particular English-speaking nation". Even so, neutrality is much more important. And see #WP:RETAIN below. --BDD (talk) 13:32, 9 June 2015 (UTC)
As North America seems unique in calling it this, why should it be moved to the North American name if there are no strong ties? Also, considering the game most likely pre-dates the telephone, any ideas what it might have been called in North America before "telephone"? --Rob Sinden (talk) 14:00, 9 June 2015 (UTC)
Why was it moved away from the North American name if there are no strong ties? You can say that it's been long enough that we shouldn't reverse the unilateral move, but you can't say the move wasn't contrary to policy. (I mean, you can, in the sense that you can say humans aren't carbon-based lifeforms.) As to older names, I suppose there were probably disparate names, or instances of people playing the game without naming it, but since we use common names (i.e., ones recognizable to readers), that's not directly relevant to this discussion. --BDD (talk) 14:06, 9 June 2015 (UTC)
Well, per WP:COMMONNAME, "Chinese whispers" will be more widely recognisable than the North American-centric "telephone", so I don't think it was against policy. And as there has been an unsuccessful move request in the interrim period then the move cannot simply be reversed. --Rob Sinden (talk) 14:16, 9 June 2015 (UTC)
@BDD: WP:TITLEVAR is very clear, BDD. It has nothing to do with strong ties. It simply says, "Otherwise, all national varieties of English are acceptable in article titles; Wikipedia does not prefer any national variety over any other. American English spelling should not be respelled to British English spelling, and vice versa". There is no justification to rename this article for the purpose of changing the English variety from a British English term to an American English term. The variety that has been stable for nearly ten years should remain. Not just per WP:TITLEVAR, but also per WP:TITLECHANGES. RGloucester 16:35, 9 June 2015 (UTC)
To add, it seems that Ngrams finds "Chinese whispers" to be much more common than either "telephone game" or "game of telephone". If that's the case, WP:UCN comes into play. RGloucester 01:58, 10 June 2015 (UTC)
  • Support per WP:RETAIN. I'll be honest, if RETAIN wasn't an issue I'd consider supporting the move anyway just on IAR grounds, but luckily a wobbly rationale isn't needed here. Straightforward application of RETAIN. SnowFire (talk) 00:19, 10 June 2015 (UTC)
RETAIN does not apply to article titles. The relevant section of the article titles policy is WP:TITLEVAR. The present title has been stable for nearly ten years. In accordance with WP:TITLEVAR and WP:TITLECHANGES, the stable title for nearly ten years should be retained. What's more, that title provides WP:NATURAL disambiguation. The article titles policy is clear on this matter. RGloucester 00:33, 10 June 2015 (UTC)
Demonstrably false, RGloucester. WP:RETAIN specifically says "An article should not be edited or renamed simply to switch from one variety of English to another" (emphasis mine). --BDD (talk) 13:29, 10 June 2015 (UTC)
It isn't "false". The MoS is a mere guideline relating to article content, whereas WP:AT is a policy relating to article titles. The relevant AT section is clear, at WP:TITLEVAR. As a policy, it trumps any prose-related guidelines. WP:TITLEVAR is clear that the title should not be changed from one dialect to another. RGloucester 15:51, 10 June 2015 (UTC)
  • Oppose: the COMMONNAME is chinese whispers. also TITLEVAR says not to change to other national variety. however as an american, i only know the game as chinese whispers. there isnt a clear national variety issue here only a matter of common name, which is chinese whsipers 2600:1000:B101:BFC4:0:0:0:103 (talk) 01:02, 10 June 2015 (UTC)
You only know the game as Chinese whispers as an American? While, I'm assuming good faith here, and saying, sure, that could happen...ask around to your friends and ask what they call it. In all my travels, I've only heard it called 'chinese whispers' in Great britian ~ipuser (talk) 08:30, 10 June 2015 (UTC)
  • Oppose. What the hell is telephone? It's always called Chinese whispers in Britain and nobody would even consider that to be racist. This may be a WP:ENGVAR issue, in which case it should stay as is anyway. -- Necrothesp (talk) 14:04, 10 June 2015 (UTC)
So, what you're saying Necrothesp, is that it's an ENGVAR issue, as it's called one thing in great britain, and another thing in America? So...thus it should be restored to the original, due to ENGVAR? Also, it's not always called chinese whispers in Britain, as I certainly don't call it that, and I certainly live in Britain, and I do consider it a bit racist. ~~ipuser (talk) 21:24, 10 June 2015 (UTC)
Look through some old move requests that failed, I found a good solid argument:

"ENGVAR states that articles which deal with common objects not specific to one country should remain in the variant of English in which they were originally written. My point was that ENGVAR trumps COMMONNAME in such articles and claiming that more webpages use one form rather than another is irrelevant in this case. -- Necrothesp (talk) 09:29, 25 February 2011 (UTC) "  :

By this argument, it should go back to the original spelling, right Necrothesp? (interestingly, the article this comes from, Windscreen wiper was also started in American English, but was changed unilaterally to british english, and the same sort of arguments here came about when someone asked to get it changed back. I take it that ENGVAR only holds in some peoples opinions if it is british English that is trying to be changed back to American english, and not vice versa? ) ~~cheers, ipuser (talk) 22:10, 10 June 2015 (UTC)

If it began as the American form then it should indeed remain as the American form, but I didn't notice the nominator using that as an argument! Instead we had some stuff about racism and systemic bias. Was it ever titled anything other than Chinese whispers? If it was then I may change my vote, but I don't actually see any evidence of it. As to you not calling it that and thinking it's racist, I think you're in a vast minority in Britain and I think you know that! -- Necrothesp (talk) 15:43, 11 June 2015 (UTC)
Yes, it was originally under the American title. See the subsection. I'm sorry I didn't get that into the nomination—I admit I was rather emotional when I wrote it. --BDD (talk) 15:47, 11 June 2015 (UTC)
I may be in the minority, but it's then certainly not always as you said, probably in jest. The fact remains, it is known as telephone in GB as well, and I bet there are a great deal of Chinese folk who might take offense at the imperialist title of 'chinese whipsers' vs. 'telephone'. ~~ipuser (talk) 07:51, 12 June 2015 (UTC)
@Necrothesp: The present variety has been stable for nearly TEN YEARS. Per WP:TITLEVAR and WP:TITLECHANGES, which are part of our article titles policy, the stable title should not be moved simply to change the variety of English. What's more, moving a title that is WP:NATURALLY disambiguated and replacing it with parenthetical disambiguation is directly contrary to our article titles policy. RETAIN and ENGVAR are both parts of the MoS, which are mere prose guidelines. WP:AT is a policy that pertains to article titles. It is clear that WP:AT is the relevant policy, and must be adhered to. Regardless, there is also evidence that "Chinese whispers" is used in America, as well. For example, see this website. In addition, WP:UCN states that the common name should be used. The above Ngrams that I linked shows that "Chinese whispers" has always been the common name of the game. Even if we throw TITLEVAR arguments out the window because "Chinese whispers" is used in both American and British English, "Chinese whispers" remains the common name. RGloucester 20:10, 12 June 2015 (UTC)
@RGloucester Did you look at the link you posted? "Chinese Whispers" is the name of a play in San Francisco about the stories of the Chinese migrant people who toiled building up the cities of California, and weren't allowed to speak their mind (thus, whisper). If anything, your link shows moreso that Chinese Whispers doesn't refer to the game in America as it does in the UK, as you wouldn't title a play about turmoil and suffering as the same of a childrens game. It would be akin to saying "Irish Whispers" in the south of NY or Boston, or "African Whispers" in the American south, or "Polish/Romanian Whispers" in the current construction industry of London. Cheers, ~~ipuser (talk) 12:02, 13 June 2015 (UTC)
You need to read the site more closely. Please read what it says "We take our name from the game of Chinese whispers, that’s also known as “Telephone,” where a sentence is whispered from one player to the next and becomes garbled in successive retelling – the title refers ironically to the stereotyping that equates unintelligibility with the Chinese, and comments on how cultural attitudes shaped social memories of the early Chinese immigrants in America". The game is known in America as "Chinese whispers". RGloucester 15:31, 13 June 2015 (UTC)
You're right, I should have looked more closely, I stand corrected. The fact that it had to be explained to roughly 316,000,000 Americans means that it probably isn't a primary use of the phrase in American English. If you want to try to confirm that it is in fact known mainly as "Chinese Whispers" in America, I can probably help you find 10,000 politically correct Elementary schools where they teach the kids it is called "telephone". I can only imagine how Chinese students arriving on the shores of Britannia feel when their Great British teachers start teaching them that a method of communicating with losing all meaning and muddling all pronunciations is named for them, and not, as it is in many other countries, named for the phenomenon when you have a wonky telephone. ~ipuser (talk) 08
56, 14 June 2015 (UTC)


  • RGloucester, Robsinden, Khestwol: the proposed title was the original title of this article, from August 2003 to July 2006. Per WP:RETAIN, it never should've been changed in the first place. --BDD (talk) 13:32, 9 June 2015 (UTC)
There was a move request in 2006 which did not result in the page being moved away from "Chinese whispers", where it has been sat for the last 9 years. --Rob Sinden (talk) 13:50, 9 June 2015 (UTC)
No one brought up ENGVAR, though. That move was against policy; if nothing else, a no consensus result should've meant reverting to the previous stable title. If that happened yesterday, I'd go straight to MRV and probably win. As such, the statute of limitations is probably past. --BDD (talk) 13:53, 9 June 2015 (UTC)
The original justification for that move is irrelevant now. This title has been stable for nearly ten years, and should not be changed per WP:TITLEVAR or WP:TITLECHANGES. Regardless, the original move could well have had good reason. As WP:NATURAL disambiguation is preferred to parenthetical, the title "Chinese whispers" is unambiguous, unlike "telephone". RGloucester 16:38, 9 June 2015 (UTC)
We should definitively rename it then, per RETAIN, because of the YOGURT decision, we don't keep the British spelling just because it's British. -- (talk) 04:05, 10 June 2015 (UTC)
  • Strong support by both ENGVAR and RETAIN. This is one of those things where we should most certainly move back to the original style of english, as opposed to maintaining a BOLD move without consensus. This is a classic case of ENGVAR creep, where people switch to their preferred version of english, and hope nobody sees it until it's too late. There is no statute of limitations on this, I strongly, wholeheartedly support moving it back to the original, non-stub version of the article,which also, coincidentally gets rid of any political correctness problems. Cheers, ~~ipuser (talk) 21:31, 9 June 2015 (UTC)
Coincidentally, problems like this is why I proposed a policy at Village Pump (policy) saying that we should give primacy to original titles if someone moved the title unitlaterally (like here, or at humour) but which was shouted down by the same folk trying to oppose this today. ~ipuser (talk) 08:34, 10 June 2015 (UTC)
The present variety has been stable for nearly TEN YEARS. Per WP:TITLEVAR and WP:TITLECHANGES, which are part of our article titles policy, the stable title should not be moved simply to change the variety of English. What's more, moving a title that is WP:NATURALLY disambiguated and replacing it with parenthetical disambiguation is directly contrary to our article titles policy. RETAIN and ENGVAR are both parts of the MoS, which are mere prose guidelines. WP:AT is a policy that pertains to article titles. It is clear that WP:AT is the relevant policy, and must be adhered to. RGloucester 15:27, 12 June 2015 (UTC)
So, the title change, restoring back to the first non-stub version of the article was brought up before. How many years must go by before what is a contreversial move that should be immediately restored, becomes a stable title that shouldn't be restored. 1 week? 1 month? 1 year? A decade? Or never? I do notice that lots of british editors change things to the proper spelling and then will go a little nutty if someone tries to restore it back to websters spelling. RGloucester what is your limit then? ~~ipuser (talk) 08:52, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
See — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:46, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
  • Strong support per WP:COMMONNAME (in addition to the aforementioned previous reasons by other users.) I present as evidence Google Trends data([3]), which indicates that 'telephone game' is far more popular and widely used in searches as opposed to 'chinese whispers.' In particular, 'Chinese whispers' is used only in Australia, the United Kingdom, and to a small degree in the United States. In comparison, according to google trends, the 'telephone game' is used in South Africa, the United Kingdom (to a lesser extent), France, the United States, Canada, India, etc. Reyne2 (talk) 03:57, 17 June 2015 (UTC)
"Google Trends" is useless. Please see the Google Ngrams search above, which searches RELIABLE SOURCES, which are the basis for our article titles. "Chinese whispers" has always been more common. "Chinese whispers" is the common name, and regardless, the title should not be changed per WP:TITLEVAR. You have no sources showing that "Telephone game", referring to this specific game and not to other potential games involving telephones, is "used in South Africa, the United Kingdom, &c." "Telephone game" is completely unknown in reference to this game in Britain, though it might refer to other games played on a telephone.RGloucester 17:37, 17 June 2015 (UTC)

Strong oppose because the common name has been shown as Chinese whispers in the whole world, including in the U.S. of A. I support opposers in there better arguments (talk) 20:52, 17 June 2015 (UTC)

The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page or in a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

Comments on move[edit]

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 (talk) 08:12, 19 June 2015 (UTC)

Still racist, at least ignorant[edit]

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". -- (talk) 21:45, 12 August 2015 (UTC)