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Chinese whispers

刊登日期: 2018.04.14
作者: Grace Tse  

You might have played a simple but fun game with your classmates. In this game, all players form a circle or a straight line. The teacher whispers a message, which can be a sentence or two, in the ear of the first player. Then he or she passes the message quietly to the second player, who in turn whispers to the next one. The last player speaks out the message loudly. At this point, all of you may be amused that the message has become so “inaccurate” that it is completely different from the original one. 

While this game is called “telephone” in the USA, British people call it “Chinese whispers”. Before the mid-1900s, the game was called “Russian scandal” in British English. There is no clear reason for the change of the name. 

The children’s game of “Chinese whispers” can be used idiomatically to describe any information which is distorted when it is passed by word of mouth among many people. This idiomatic meaning is often used in news stories. 

The manager described the plans to rebuild the shopping mall as Chinese whispers(以訛傳訛;道聽塗說). 

Some people argue that this idiom may sound offensive because it implies that Chinese people like to talk about silly things. However, scholars think that the phrase was created probably because British people find it difficult to understand the Chinese language. 

If you want to avoid any negative implications of this idiom, what synonyms can you use instead? “Rumour” and “hearsay” may be some good options. 


 

Glossary

 

Whispers 

耳語

Amused 

感到好笑

Scandal 

醜聞

Distorted 

被歪曲

Word of mouth 

眾口相傳

Offensive 

得罪他人

Implications 

含意

Synonyms 

同義詞

 

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