At 11:32 Saturday morning, Stair Public Library director Colleen Leddy grew concerned. She was supposed to have learned “the secret” before 11:30 and needed to pass it on at noon.
She went to the phone and called Mauro Berimbau in São Paulo, Brazil, and immediately fell into a deep conversation.
Mauro, from Biblioteca Central Napoleão de Carvalho, apologized for the delay and excitedly began his visit with a stranger in the small town of Morenci, Mich.
“Do you know Allison from Michigan?” he asked.
After an exchange of e-mail addresses and Colleen’s concerns about a growing telephone bill, Mauro bid her goodbye and the Global Gossip Game (GGG) got underway in Morenci.
GGG was organized a year ago by Philip Minchin of Australia. The game is also known as Telephone or Broken Telephone and other names in various cultures around the world.
Last year’s game ended with only six continents, but this year Casey Station, Antarctica, was on the list of participants.
The entertaining factor of the game comes through the unreliable transmission of information. One person starts it off by whispering a message in another’s ear; that person passes it on to the next, etc. By the time it reaches the final person playing, the message is not likely to mimic its original.
Last year, for example, the game began with a quote from Plato—“Life must be lived as play”—and eventually morphed into “He bites snails.”
Minchin likes the way GGG shows the power of the human community.
“It is truly extraordinary that people on every continent on Earth will be sharing in this secret, a testament to the ingenuity of our communications technology, and to the power of our drive to connect and share experiences with each other,” Minchin said.
On the other hand, Minchin said, the Global Gossip Game also shows how infallible human communication can be, along with the importance of not relying on a single indirect source of information.
“And of course, that’s what libraries do, day in and day out—we give our community opportunities to connect to the wider human conversation, by sharing culture and information from around the world,” he said, “and we offer a wide range of independent high-quality sources and important texts so people can freely find things out for themselves.”
“Knowledge is power,” he adds, “so libraries put that power in the hands of the people.”
Colleen took the phrase from Mauro—“gaming advertising”—that soon transformed into “Can you find ink?” One person didn’t hear any recognizable words and told the next one, “I have no clue.”
When it was time to call Gabrielle Steffler in Campbellton, New Brunswick, Canada, the message was “She said hi,” and that was passed on to Lawton Memorial Library in La Farge, Wis.
The final report of this year’s Global Gossip Game is not yet complete, but the log shows a variety of messages from around the world.
• Croatia: They stole the sweets.
• India: A wonderful silent library (and later, The man behind me does not know good English)
• South Africa: Human baby my baby
• Czech Republic: Snails in the cage
• Italy: The secret is feathered
• Rhode Island: Do not eat doughnuts for dinner.
From Leeton Shire, Australia, to Honolulu, Hawaii, the message moved through a host of countries during a 24-hour period while also moving through a wide variety of alterations.
Clean out your ears and tune in next year for International Games Day and the Global Gossip Game.