Jessica Michalofsky at The Quarterly Conversation:
In 2012, in a global game of Chinese Whispers, a single message traveled through seven languages and across six continents, starting in St. Kilda, Melbourne as “Life must be lived as play” (a commonly paraphrased quote from Plato), and ending in Homer, Alaska as “He bites snails.”
According to a Wikipedia entry, the now–politically incorrect name of the popular children’s game (alternately played as Gossip, Broken Telephone, Pass the Message, Operator, andDon’t Drink the Milk), derives from
Westerners’ use of the word Chinese to denote “confusion” and “incomprehensibility” to the earliest contacts between Europeans and Chinese people in the 1600s, and attribute[s] it to Europeans’ inability to understand China’s culture and worldview.
Chinese, it was assumed, like other “foreign” languages, was an incomprehensible one. Common phrases like it’s all Greek to me, mumbo jumbo, gibberish, and double Dutchdemonstrate our apprehension of certain foreign languages as impenetrable glossolalia.
It is this assumption of the otherness and obscurity of the foreign in language that Eduard Stoklosinski examines in Another View: Tracing the Foreign in Literary Translation.