Appalachia Games

Playing Telephone

Old fashioned game telephone

Have you ever played the game telephone? It’s a fun game to play especially if you’re in a group of giggling girls. I remember playing the game at summer camp and at slumber parties.

One person starts the game by whispering a phrase to the person next to them. That person passes the phrase along to the next person. Each person repeats the process until it reaches the last person in the group. The last person shares the phrase with the whole group. The fun happens when everyone sees how much the original phrase changed along the way. Now that I’ve explained it you can see how telephone is the perfect game for a bunch of giggling girls.

Paul used a version of telephone in his classroom, well sort of. When the class was studying propaganda. Paul would pick one student and one fellow teacher to be in on his game.

He would reprimand the student who was in on the game for some imaginary misdeed in front of the class. The discussion between Paul and the student would get pretty heated and end with Paul leaving to go to the Principal’s office with the student.

The fellow teacher would then enter the classroom and ask the other students what happened. Paul said it never failed, the students would totally misrepresent what happened between Paul and the student. After the students had been questioned Paul and the student returned to class and let everyone in on the game, then I suppose they talked about eye witness accounts or whatever it was he was trying to make a point about.

Talking about the telephone game makes me think of making prank calls as a kid, you know ones like “Do you have Prince Albert in a can? Well then let him out!” or “Is your frigerator running? The you better catch it!” or “Your cows in my garden. Oh you don’t have a cow well I don’t have a garden either!” I was too backward to actually say any of those things to someone on the phone, but I was always willing to sit in the corner and cut up when someone else did.

I asked the girls if they ever played telephone when they told me how some of their lunch table telephone games ended in elementary school I wished I hadn’t even asked. I could have done without knowing all that!

Ever play telephone?



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  • Reply
    RB Redmond
    May 7, 2013 at 11:18 pm

    We played that game often at parties, but we called it “Whisper,” although I’ve also heard it called “Gossip.” It was so funny how much the message changed as it went around the group, especially if it was a large group.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Jane Bolden
    May 6, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    We played the telephone game at church too when I was a child. We called it Gossip. I confess I made crank calls around 5th ,6th,7th grade. It would usually happen when more than two girls spent the night together. We would use the phone book to make sure we didn’t call anyone we knew. Did the Prince Albert and frig ones. Giggle,Giggle

  • Reply
    May 6, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    I remember all the prank calls too.
    Our first phone was a party line.
    It didn’t take long till everyone
    on our party line was listening to
    every call. One time I was talking
    to a class buddy and could hear
    a guy breathing. I suspected who
    this guy was so right in the middle
    of a story I said “Ain’t that right Ted?” Old Ted answered “that’s right!!!” …Ken

  • Reply
    May 6, 2013 at 11:51 am

    I know some adults who play the telephone game every day, I like to call them gossips!
    I sure do remember all the prank calls you mention, though I admit nothing! 😉 The last couple of generations will never know the giggling, snickering joy of crank calls thanks to caller ID.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    May 6, 2013 at 10:55 am

    We played the same game you describe but called it “Pass it on.”
    As an adult I have learned that if you repeat back what you heard, you are less likely to misunderstand.
    I like Paul’s teaching method. I have had classes where we watched a video of a crime occurring then answered questions about it. I think doing something live is much more effective. I’ll bet those students will never forget Paul or his lesson.

  • Reply
    Kerry in GA
    May 6, 2013 at 10:32 am

    My Sunday School teacher when I was a teenager done this with us one time. He used it to prove the point of we shouldn’t believe everything we hear and for us to see how easily stories can get twisted around and added to. 🙂

  • Reply
    May 6, 2013 at 10:19 am

    This entry and the responses brought up so many memories!
    1)of course, playing the game as well as using it as a lesson from the time I was a child through present day.
    2) I’ve used both names: Telephone and gossip.
    3) Party lines allowing the first conference calls. As child visiting my mother’s mother, I could get on her phone and talk to two of my aunts who were also on the same party line! I was so disappointed to get home where we did not have a party line!
    4) As a middle school teacher, I also used a variation on Paul’s strategy for a science lesson in observation and preconceptions affecting observations. Very effective. I even used the gossip game during character ed with my homeroom classes – always surprised that the students hadn’t played the game before. . . . Had your girls?

  • Reply
    B. ruth
    May 6, 2013 at 10:12 am

    When I first started reading this post, the picture that came into my mind was the Norman Rockwell painting on the cover of the Post magazine back in the ??? can remember the year. I always loved that painting. One lady phoning another with news and that one phoning another lady, and on and on until the last scene was the lady that called first getting the call and the look on her face. So, so funny! I loved those homespun American town paintings he did. Then of course there is the Andy Griffith show, with a misinterpeted story being passed around by phone, etc. Love it love it….
    We played that game of calling and joking at a few slumber parties. Before I went, my Mother said, if I did any of that she would wear me out until Sunday..
    I then thought that was funny, cause this was a Sunday school slumber party. We were all dared to call a number, but the leader of the gang…Mom thought she was so nice!…I was so scared when my turn came around that I jumped up and ran to the bathroom with a yell that my stomach was hurting…Would you believe that later in the night, I had to call my parents to come get me, because I was sick…Nerves, too many fritos and chips….Yuk..
    Thanks Tipper,
    When my kids were young there was a hit song on the radio, “Hey Baby, I’m the Telephone Man” or something like that. Kinda of incenuating things…but everytime you turned on the Radio there it was…My boys learned the tune and words by heart…We were always having phone troubles on the state hwy line…and everytime we passed a phone truck they would start the song….Oh well, you had to be there…or NOT!

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    May 6, 2013 at 10:05 am

    we called it gossip, too, and it was favorite to play @ MYF on Sunday evenings.

  • Reply
    May 6, 2013 at 9:03 am

    Yes, in elementary school we played telephone, but always as a good laugh at the end. I never thought to use it in middle school as a method of teaching, but then again, middle school students, well, one just never knew what he/she would come up with. It was always best to play it safe. We had a party telephone line, so it was wise not to prank call; one never knew who might be listening.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    May 6, 2013 at 8:35 am

    We3 did, but we called it gossip which when you think about it proves the story changes every time it is passed along and why we should never believe it.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    May 6, 2013 at 8:13 am

    Yes, I did the telephone game but not as a child I did it as an adult as a part of management training classes. I was always astounded at how garbled the message got going through 8 or 10 adults.
    People really see and hear thing filtered through their own belief system and you just never know what’s going to come out on the other end.
    Take our TV news for example…..

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    May 6, 2013 at 7:34 am

    We played that game when I was a kid, but we called it “Gossip”.

  • Reply
    May 6, 2013 at 7:17 am

    I remember playing telephone. But Tim made me smile when he reminded me of when we first moved to Michigan. A woman called me day after day asking for Bill. I would always tell her there is no Bill here. Then one day while I was napping the phone rang and it was for Bill. I told her he was there but he is in the bedroom with my sister and there is a sock on the door knob. She didn’t call me after that. I have often wondered if she ever caught up with Bill and how he explained the sock.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    May 6, 2013 at 7:15 am

    The telephone game used to be a standby–with a group of girls, or even at a party. Just yesterday I thought, too, of those “old” days of party lines on telephones when you could almost expect that others on your line would eavesdrop while you were in a conversation with someone. Today there may be “wire taps”–but probably no party lines…or maybe a “conference” call or even ability on the iphone to see each other as the call is made. “We’ve come a long way, baby,” in communications. But I still like the idea of our old creative and inovative games, and “telephone” was one of them.

  • Reply
    Tim Mc
    May 6, 2013 at 6:19 am

    No, but pulled a few pranks on the phone in my time,, Several years ago we use to get a wrong number call asking for Racheal, we would always say she didn’t live here. So one night a man called wanting to speak to Racheal, my wife said you have the wrong number and hung up, he called back asking for Racheal, she again told him he had the wrong number, he called right back asking the same thing and was told again “wrong number”. and got really smart this time, my wife hung up the phone.. Well again he called, I told her give me the phone, (changing my voice) I answered,, he ask for Racheal, I told him hang on, ( held the phone) came back and said ah ah she left with Clyde a little while ago, the phone went silent, he finally came back and said Clyde from Hillsboro, I said yea yea he da one,, he hung up and didn’t call back… poor Clyde..

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