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<tr><th>Players</th><td>3 or more</td></tr><tr><th>Age range</th><td>5 and up</td></tr><tr><th>Setup time</th><td>< 5 minutes</td></tr><tr><th>Playing time</th><td>5–15 minutes</td></tr><tr><th>Random chance</th><td>Low</td></tr><tr><th>Skills required</th><td>listening, whispering</td></tr> <tr><td colspan="2"></td></tr>
Chinese whispers

Chinese whispers, also known as the telephone game, Broken Telephone, operator, a whisper down the lane and Pass It Down, is a game often played by children at parties or in the playground in which a phrase or sentence is passed on from one player to another, but is subtly altered in transit.

How to playEdit

As many players as possible line up such that they can whisper to their immediate neighbours but not hear any players farther away. The player at the beginning of the line thinks of a phrase, and whispers it as quietly as possible to her/his neighbour. The neighbour then passes on the message to the next player to the best of his or her ability. The passing continues in this fashion until it reaches the player at the end of the line, who calls out the message he or she received.

If the game has been 'successful', the final message will bear little or no resemblance to the original, because of the cumulative effect of mistakes along the line. Often, however, the message does not reach the end of the line, due to someone accidentally speaking too loudly. Deliberately changing the phrase is often considered cheating, but if the starting phrase is poorly chosen, there may be disappointingly little natural change.

One variation known as "operator" allows each listener one chance to ask his or her neighbour for a repetition, as if assistance from the line operator were available by calling that magic word.

The World Record for the largest game of Chinese Whispers was set by entertainer Mac King, January 6, 2004 at Harrah's Las Vegas Casino and involved 614 people.


The game has no objective, and no winner - the entertainment comes from comparing the original and final messages. Even if the line is not completed, the last few people to receive the message can compare this with the original, and some messages will be unrecognizable after only a few steps.

Besides being a fun game, the meaning created by this activity is the important truth about how easily information can become corrupted by indirect communication. The game has been used in schools to simulate the spread of gossip and its harmful effects, and has implications in many topics like bureaucracy, politics and Academia.


A common (likely 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".

In the media Edit

In "The PTA Disbands", an episode of The Simpsons, Bart attempts to spread "Skinner said the teachers will crack any minute" throughout the crowd of Springfield Elementary School teachers. By the time it reaches Mrs. Krabappel, it has turned into "Skinner said the teachers will crack any minute, purple monkey dishwasher."

The following is excerpted from the movie Johnny Dangerously:

Lil: Get this to Johnny on the grapevine. Vermin is going to kill Johnny's brother at the savoy theater tomorrow night. Got it.
Polly: Got it.
Polly: Vermon is going to kill Johnny's brother at the savoy theater pass it on.
Prisoner: Vermon is going to kill Johnny's brother at the savoy theater tonight pass it on.
Prisoner: Vermon is going to kill Johnny's mother at the savoy theater tonight pass it on.
Prisoner: Vermon's mother is going to kill Johnny tonight at the savoy theater pass it on.
Prisoner: [gibberish]
Prisoner: There's a message on the grapevine Johnny.
Johnny: Yeh. What is it?
Prisoner: Johnny and the mothers are playin' Stompin At the Savoy in Vermont tonight.
Johnny: Vermin's going to kill my brother at the savoy theater tonight.
Prisoner: I didn't say that.
Johnny: No, but I know this grapevine.

From the January 8, 2006 comic strip Zits:

[Frame 1]
Mom: [on phone] Sara? It's Connie, Jeremy's mom.
Sara: Oh, hi!
[Frame 2]
Mom: [on phone] Jeremy must have turned his cell phone off. Can you give him a message?
Sara: Sure!
[Frame 3]
Sara: [on phone] D'ijon? Sara. Tell Jeremy that his mom locked her keys in the car, so he should get a ride home with Hector.
D'ijon: Got it.
[Frame 4]
D'ijon: [on phone] Zuma? D'ijon. Give Jeremy this message.
Zuma: 'K.
[Frame 5]
Zuma: [on phone] Thanks Brittany.
Brittany: No problem. I'll pass it on.
[Frame 6]
Brittany: [on phone] Pierce, I have a message for Jeremy.
Pierce: Go.
[Frame 7]
Pierce: Give Hector a ride home. Your mom locked her cheese in a jar.
[Frame 8]
Pierce: ...Or something like that.
Jeremy: [thinking] And she wonders why I screen her calls...

From the comic strip "Pooch Café: the cast of dogs are playing the telephone game, whispering "Woof" to one another until a cat butts in, whispering "Meow". Then one of the dogs loudly proclaims "Okay, who broke the telephone?"

In the final chapter of the fourth book of the Clue book series Mystery at the Masked Ball, "Mr. Boddy Passes On," Mr. Boddy and the guests(excluding Mrs. White), play an odd game of telephone around the dinner table, starting when Mr. Green whispers to an identified guest, "Wouldn't Mr. Boddy really be mad if we all left and went into town? Pass it on!" It goes around the table:

Unidentified Guest:(to Mrs. Peacock) Wouldn't Mr. Boddy really be glad if we all jumped up and down? Pass it on!
Mrs. Peacock:(to Mr. Boddy) Wouldn't you really be glad if we all rolled about on the ground?
Mr. Boddy:(to undentified female guest) I'm still sad because I sold my old hound.
Unidentified Female Guest: (to Professor Plum) Mr. Boddy's still sad because someone stole his old hound.
Professor Plum:(to Mr. Green) Mr. Boddy's afraid someone's going to steal his gold clown.
Mr. Green: (to unidentified guest) Mr. Boddy's afraid someone's going to steal his solid gold crown.

Hearing perfectly, the undentified guest for some reason believes it, and discontinues the game, but later in the evening breaks into Mr. Boddy's bedroom and kills him in an attempt to steal the crown.

Other namesEdit

This game is also known in various parts of the world as broken telephone, whisper down the lane, gossip

  • развален телефон (Bulgarian for "broken telephone").
  • El telèfon (Catalan for "the telephone")
  • 以訛傳訛 (Chinese for "pass wrong with wrong")
  • pokvareni telefon (Croatian for "broken telephone")
  • tichá pošta (Czech for "silent mail")
  • rikkinäinen puhelin (Finnish for "broken telephone")
  • téléphone arabe (French for "Arabian telephone").
  • stille Post (German for "silent mail")
  • χαλασμένο τηλέφωνο (Greek for "broken telephone")
  • telefono senza fili (Italian for "telephone without wires")
  • klusie telefoni (Latvian for "silent telephones")
  • głuchy telefon (Polish for "the deaf telephone" / "dead telephone").
  • telefone-sem-fio (Portuguese for "wireless telephone").
  • telefonul fără fir (Romanian for "telephone without wire")
  • испорченный телефон or глухой телефон (Russian for "broken telephone" or "deaf telephone")
  • el teléfono estropeado/dañado/descompuesto (Spanish for "broken telephone").
  • viskleken (Swedish for "the whispering game")
  • Gluvi Telefoni (Serbian Just like the Polish version.)
  • Kulaktan kulağa (Turkish "from ear to ear")
  • Chinese Whispers (UK, NZ and Australia)
  • טלפון שבור (Hebrew for "broken telephone")
  • 伝言ゲーム (Japanese for "message game")

See alsoEdit

de:Stille Post fr:Téléphone arabe ksh:Stėlle Poßß fi:Rikkinäinen puhelin

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