Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Want to play "Chinese Whispers"?

Up until today, I wasn't aware that Chinese Whispers was an alternative name for the game known as Telephone. If you haven't heard of that, Telephone is a game where people line up and transmit a message between the first and last players via a series of whispers along the line. The idea is that the message is inevitably garbled a little more every time it's told, and the fun is the final revelation, where the last player repeats the crazy nonsensical concoction aloud for all to hear. Purple monkey dishwasher!

The interesting thing is how many have found nothing wrong with the name. It's not terribly offensive, but it is offensive. It's not because we, the offended, are a collective of anal-retentive whistle-blowing teetotalers with giant sticks up our rectums, but because it only takes a second thought to see where the offense lies.

The object of the game is to create gibberish; the players' delight lies in the magic of error, in both speaking and listening.

The defense argues that gibberish is simply defined as "meaningless sounds", and thus, to an English speaker, Chinese may legitimately be called gibberish.

The trouble lies in how culturally self-centred this view is. There is a difference between identifying actual gibberish (which, in the game, is English, but in error and confused) and acknowledging a real language, with its own particular order and vocabulary, which you may not have the capacity to understand, but which does mean something to an educated speaker.

Calling the game "Chinese Whispers" is to say that Chinese, spoken correctly, is equivalent to a screwed-up, silly, garbage version of English ... which is, yes, a little offensive.

posted at 3:13:23 pm

Halcyon
March 7, 2009   08:31 PM PST
 
Sinja only thinks the english language is gibberish cos he keeps speaking to people on "teh internets" which induces far more confusion than chinese whispers
Sinja
March 6, 2009   02:08 PM PST
 
"My God the Chinese have penetrated our arithmetic."
Deirdre
March 5, 2009   01:32 PM PST
 
I've never heard of that game being called that. Dude. How rude.
Sinja
March 4, 2009   06:22 PM PST
 
P.S. I think the English language sounds much more like gibberish than either Mandarin or Cantonese anyway.
Sinja
March 4, 2009   06:18 PM PST
 
I've never heard the game called that, but if I do, I'll totally serve someone their shit.

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Glo'ri'a'na, noun:
1. An alternative form of "Gloria."
2. As "Americana" defines itself as artefacts of American culture, "Gloriana" consists of the artefacts of my culture.


   



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