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I had never (before today) heard this phrase. I attempted to Google it, but only found examples of its use, not much different from my first experience. (I also tried two idiom dictionaries, but chain of Chinese whispers did not even present there.)

What does it mean and where should I have looked to find it?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

Chinese whispers is another name for the game also known as telephone, grapevine, or whisper down the lane. In this game, each person whispers a phrase to the next person in line. The phrase is usually unrecognizable by the time it reaches the end of the line.

"A chain of Chinese whispers" appears to be used for the analogous real-life process where a rumour gets totally distorted while being passed along.

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Would it be fair to say that this language is not an idiom but instead, say, a metaphor? – Jeremy Apr 1 '12 at 3:02
Good point. It's certainly closer to a metaphor than an idiom. – Peter Shor Apr 1 '12 at 12:32

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