What Are Examples of Chinese Whispers?

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The key to a fun, successful game of Chinese whispers, known as “telephone” in the United States, is a silly or nonsensical beginning phrase such as “The moon shines on a windswept beach near the foggy sea” or “Moonshine, sun and windy bees make a body free.” The goal of Chinese whispers is for the last person to repeat the phrase with the fewest amount of errors.

Chinese whispers is played all over the world under various names, the most common being “telephone” or “broken telephone.” It is also called the Russian scandal game, the Arab game and the gossip game. While it appears often as a children’s party game, it is also used as a metaphor for the corruption of gossip as it spreads. The name “Chinese whispers” has largely fallen out of fashion because of its supposedly racist roots, referring to the tendency of 15th-century Britain to stereotype the Chinese as inscrutable, mysterious and confusing.

The game is played by having everyone form a line, close enough that each person can whisper to her immediate neighbors but with enough distance to prevent her from eavesdropping on others. The first player whispers a phrase into his neighbor’s ear, who then passes it on to the next person in line. At the end, the first and last players compare messages. Some players choose to garble or change the message to something more amusing.