Eat Poop You Cat

Eat Poop You Cat” is a party game I recently discovered via Metafilter. The premise:

> Each person writes a sentence, such as, say, “The hot soup burned my tongue.” The next person illustrates the sentence. Then the first portion is folded over, and the next person must try to reproduce the original sentence from the drawing. Then the drawing is folded over, and another illustration is produced.

> The mutations can be hilarious. You don’t have to “know how to” draw. You don’t have to “know how to” write. Just keep the papers moving, until the space is used up. They must end with a sentence, not an illustration. Then you can compare.

Just looking through the online game results was plenty entertaining (especially the PG-13 ones), but it certainly wasn’t enough. I wanted to play it. When they visited last weekend Carl and Alf were similarly fired up by the possibilities. We played a lame 3-person game and the results were promising, but it was clear that in order to harness the full hilarity power of the game you need more people.

I also mused about how it might be playing with Chinese people. Carl, Alf, and I have all taught Chinese kids, and we all feel they often lack imagination. Would it be any fun playing with them? What about playing in Chinese? Would I be able to write and read enough to fully participate in an all-Chinese version of the game? Would it be possible to play a bilingual version? These were all just thoughts floating around in my head. I had no idea when I’d have a chance to test them out.

Then last Friday my girlfriend told me she was going to hang out with some classmates on Saturday and wanted me to hang out with them. Oh great, I thought. A day of hanging out with a bunch of people I don’t know, who are all speaking in Shanghainese which I only partially understand, and probably playing Chinese card games which I hate. But my girlfriend is always a good sport about hanging out with my friends despite her limited English ability. I like to think that’s because my friends are especially cool. Still, the right thing seemed to be to go along and not whine.

So I showed up and met them all. I got the usual round of foreigner comments, and then we ate dinner. After dinner someone had the great idea of playing cards. Everyone was speaking Shanghainese. My imagined unwanted scenario had become reality. I hate that stupid card game, so I just sat behind my girlfriend and watched her play, trying to participate what little I could in the conversation.

After they played a good five or six rounds of cards, though, I had had enough. Some of the people there were pretty fun; I decided Eat Poop You Cat stood a chance. I suggested we play a game I knew of. Paper and pens were passed out. I explained the rules. Everyone was enthusiastic about it, and the game began.

I knew it was going to be a hit when people were already laughing hard after the second and third passes of the first round. Looking at the results of the first round, my girlfriend was laughing so hard it must have hurt. Everyone was laughing.

Although we had started playing when the evening was already winding down, we played for a good two hours, switching seats and everything. The game succeeded far beyond my modest expectations. I had no problems with other people’s Chinese, except when someone wrote 在法院审理案件. I knew it was something happening in a court of law, but I was unclear exactly what. I fudged it by drawing people talking in a courthouse. Worked fine. Turns out 审理案件 means “to try/hear a case.” Close enough.

Some sample sentences translated to English from memory (sorry, no drawings), in no particular order:

  • The monk prayed over the dead body.
  • Long live Maoist Thought!
  • The two chickens clucked and blew up balloons with their butts at the same time.
  • Ugly people can find each other without using the phone if they just take off their clothes.
  • The mother got angry because her son brought home a slut and castrated him.

Conclusions? At least this group of Chinese people had more than enough imagination to have a blast at this game. The fear that Chinese didn’t have enough imagination to have a good time with the game was unwarranted. And Eat Poop You Cat is awesome.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. I’ve never been too big on party games, but I don’t mind a few rounds of Jenga.

  2. “Ugly people can find each other without using the phone if they just take off their clothes.”

    Bahaha!! I would’ve liked to see the picture for that one.

  3. That sounds great. I wonder if that could be morphed into a classroom game… it would certainly be a lot of fun, though maybe it would have to be done in teams.

    Strangely, I actually knew 审理案件, thanks I suppose to dating a Chinese law student. It’s funny how we pick up lots of totally useless things based on the Chinese people we associate with.

  4. This is great!! One thing I have found with Chinese students’ parties in NZ is that they are much more prone to group activity than Kiwis — I think we have this kind of ‘once I’m 13 I’m way too cool to do this kind of thing… give me parties with drinking-and-drugs and individual conversations thanks’ attitude. But once we are outnumbered by Chinese we can let our hair down a bit and play some ‘childish’ games. I’m even starting to like them…

  5. John B,

    I’m also dating a Chinese law student. Didn’t seem to rub off on me, though. 🙁

  6. SS is a law student? Did I miss something?

  7. This game sounds like the (drunk) brainchild of people debating if they should play Pictionary or Balderdash. A (drunken) compromise ensued and this game was born.

    It kind of reminds me of college when we would sit around and invent combination games like “ping pong baseball” and “tackle handball boot-hockey.”

  8. Chilly John: SS is in her third year… I just learned this last week myself. John keeps secrets from us!

    Somewhat chilly John: our game was not lame in the least. It was brilliant, especially alf’s horrid drawing skills.

  9. Luo Dawei Says: December 1, 2004 at 2:08 am

    This sounds like a twist on the old parlor game “Telephone” where an original phrase is whispered, and it is passed on through the room in this manner until the person at the end of the “line” says out loud what the message is, then see how much it changed from the original. A good example of why hearsay is not allowed in testimony.

    This sounds like the phrase mutations can be much more absurd. You should post pics of the illustrations and see if we can figure out the phrase.

  10. Well, my first thought was “Now THATS a hell of a good game for teaching English.” I teach English down in Sài Gòn to kids, and the kiddies love their games. (They just have to write the sentences in English.) Our resource coordinator is always looking for new activities, so he’d appreciate it too. Two thumbs up!

  11. A good game for college-aged students is Mafia. I introduced that to some of my classmates back in Nanjing and they got addicted to it, playing it until 3 or 4 in the morning.

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