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Dance of the Puppets

Like a bat on a hot tin roof since August 2005

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

It's all Chinese whispers

In early Superman stories it's explained that Superman's x-ray vision cannot penetrate lead. This is because in the real world X-rays cannot pass through lead or any other material so dense.

In Doctor Who, the original Cybermen are defeated when they are forced to inhale powered gold, which clogs their breathing filters, suffocating them.

Several writers later and we find that Superman cannot affect lead in any way, but has little problem with denser materials. He cannot even heat up this soft metal with his heat vision because... well, for no reason given. We also find that Cybermen are now so allergic to gold that a coin fired from a slingshot will kill them, even though it cannot possibly affect them in the way that originally incapacitated them.

It's all Chinese whispers. Writers see what their predecessors have written and follow the form without considering the concept. And that's without even considering the stuff they change deliberately...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not to point fingers, but you're being a bit of an insensitive clot when you call it "Chinese" whispers.

The PC parlance is "broken telephone."

Please try to refrain from such racist behavior in future.

4:38 am  
Blogger RAB said...

But it's perfectly acceptable to slur any random British, the Australian, or Kiwi as being racist simply for referring to a game by the name by which it's commonly known in those countries. And any one person from any one of those countries bears full and total responsibility for any and all non-PC behavior ever commited by those cultures. I don't see how that could possibly go wrong. From what I read here, in France they call the same game "Arabian Telephone" -- so I'll expect sharply worded notes of protest on behalf of all Arabs delivered to every French blogger forthwith, or I as a concerned citizen shall want to know why.

Jeez, it's not like they call it "Chinky Whispers"...or that word they use for that other game that Americans call "Ten Little Indians" -- which is every bit as insensitive, if you think about it.

5:30 am  
Anonymous davidm said...

I liked the "Not to point fingers,...", especially from the ever bold "anonymous".

6:00 am  
Blogger RAB said...

I just reread my first sentence and wonder where my command of English went. You might as well just call the game "RAB Whispers" from now on and I promise not to complain.

6:36 am  
Blogger Marionette said...

I have always believed it was called Chinese whispers because the game originated in China. I would consider it offensive to deny the diversity of our cultural heritage.

11:29 pm  
Anonymous ae660 said...

I'm Chinese and I've no idea what game you guys are talking about. :)

3:03 am  
Anonymous Bunny said...

I know I've never heard of "broken telephone", even from my little cousins.

Just out of geeky geekiness I had a quick google and found the probably origin of the term. Apparently it's related to something called a Chinese Fre Drill. In the 1900s a ship in the British navy was officered by the Brits and manned by Chinese soldiers. In the event of a fire the crew was to draw water from the starboard side, take to the engine room and throw it on the fire. Another crew in the engine room was to take the thrown water and throw it over the port side. When the drill was called the first moments went according to plan then it got confused.The crew began drawing the water from the starboard side and running over to the port side and throwing the water over, by-passing the the engine room completely.

So I guess the term "Chinese fire drill" was extended to "Chinese whispers" as an expression of the difficulty in translating accurate instructions between languages? Something which still goes on now between any language (anyone recall that dodgy translation of a coca cola advert- "Coca Cola brings your relatives back from the dead"?)

8:49 pm  

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