Saturday, October 30, 2010




: to understand or explain wrongly : misinterpret

I think of the game of telephone—a game constructed on the humor inherent in the act of MISCONSTRUING information. Telephone was a game played regularly at birthday parties or social events or almost any occasion that demanded a group of girls sit around a table, between the years of being 7 or 8 to 13 or 14. For a child that hated played most games, I adored telephone and thought it to be the most hilarious activity. I laughed harder playing this game than I probably did at any other time during my childhood.*

To make a blanket statement, miscommunication is just funny. The hilarity of telephone came from the fact that one message could move through several sets of ears and lips and come out something completely different. My favorite show is Charles in Charge, twelve girls later could emerge as, I ate a bowl of chicken and stars. The funniest part was going back through the circle and hearing everyone's MISCONSTRUCTIONS. Each young ear interpreted the phrase differently, and each whispering voice disguised itself in mumbles to further complicate the message.

I thought little about the greater implications of the game. It never occurred to me that this pastime suggested the difficulties of subjective interpretation in human interaction, the self-interest in information exchange and the simple truth that people often hear what they want to hear.

One time while playing telephone at a birthday party, I laughed so hard that I threw up. I was discreet, but it was humbling.

*Except for one memorable instance of playing Barbies with my mother, during which she prompted the anatomically indifferent Ken to respond to the question of his surname as, "Doll." We cried.

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