Chinese Whispers

Meanings of “Chinese Whispers”

The phrase “Chinese whispers” means wrong gossip or a gossip having no link to the original story. It also means different repetitions of the same story but with little resemblance to it. The phrase often starts and ends differently. The game Chinese Whispers are played to teach a lesson about gossiping and its negative impacts.

Origin of “Chinese Whispers”

The phrase “Chinese whispers” is stated to have oriented in the United Kingdom during the middle of the 20th century. It was first cited in the newspaper, The Guardian, in its publication in March 1964, where it goes thus; “The children’s game of ‘Chinese whispers’… in which whispered messages were passed around the room and the version, which came back to the starting point, bore no relation to the original message.”

Examples in Literature

Example #1

Chinese Whispers by John Ashbery

And in a little while we broke under the strain:
suppurations ad nauseam, the wanting to be taller,
though it’s simply about being mysterious, i.e., not taller,
like any tree in any forest.
Mute, the pancake describes you.
It had tiny roman numerals embedded in its rim.
It was a pancake clock. They had ‘em in those days,
always getting smaller, which is why they finally became extinct.
It was a hundred years before anyone noticed.
The governor general
called it “sinuous.” But we, we had other names for it,
knew it was going to be around for a long time,
even though extinct. And sure as shillelaghs fall from trees
onto frozen doorsteps, it came round again
when all memory of it had been expunged
from the common brain.

These three stanzas present why they used to seem mysterious or taller, giving a simile of the tall trees of the forests. Then he turns to pancakes which were smaller than usual cakes. Afterward, the poet turns to the general how he issued a command and all these things became extinct. The main idea of these stanzas is how different stories are told about different things having little similarity between them.

Example #2

Chinese Whispers by Diane Hine

…Murder! Miss Marple investigating….
…Murder! Miss Marple investigating….
…Sorry, I didn’t quite hear….
…Sherman says he’s sorry but he didn’t hear….
…Surfing stories and bitter beer….
…Surfers in bars? I’d rather play cards…
…Surfers and cards and Ray’s impatient…
…Surfers and sharks are playing Patience…
…Smurfs outsmarted St Ignatius…
…Worship the martyr St Ignatius…
…Slippery worms, garden geishas….
…Something about worm casts and carnations…
…Wormy carp invagination….
…Words – the heart of imagination? …
…Murderous Harpy infestation…
…Murder! Miss Marple investigating….

This poem shows how different gossips have nothing in common, though, it may seem that all have the same thing; is an investigation. By investigation, he means to go to the roots of the stories, but almost all of them are different from each other. Therefore, the title of the poem shows the meanings of this phrase through different thematic ideas of these verses.

Example #3

Chinese Whispers by The Dillinger Escape Plan

Lined up waiting for the execution
Blank stares fall from out of trees
Never leave home praying for the new solution
Sick from all the indifference in the breeze

Out your head down, you’re tied up
With a blank stare you know that your time’s up
Now you’re lined up for the execution
For de-evolution

These lines demonstrate that even though the execution is of the men, the trees stare at them which means that a person should not leave his home when even the breeze is indifferent. The second stanza, too, shows different themes in each verse.

Example #4

Chinese Whispers: Poems John Ashbery

This book highlights the use of Chinese whispers, giving its history which is called Telephone in American. It happens that participants stand in a circle and circulate an oral story that is compared to the first participant’s story by the end. Then it is analyzed where the transformation occurs. It dawns upon the participants that each one has added something to it, changing it a bit by bit.  This collection of sixty-three poems, too, highlights almost the same thing; each poem shows the verbal nucleus that underpins all the poems.

Example in Sentences

Example #1: “All these are Chinese whispers are nothing but the best example of miscommunication. Always hear the news from the first source to know the truth.”

Example #2: “Whether these are Chinese whispers or not, all I can say is that these are the parts of the same stories that they have been telling for years.”

Example #3: “Mina thought Kyle refuse to attend the party and slept without having her dinner. She didn’t realize that it was a Chinese whisper in the class and Kyle was actually attending her party.”

Example #4: “He has narrated us various Chinese whispers, though, none of them are related to his story.”

Example #5: “Whenever they come home, they always hear Chinese whispers about themselves.”