Speak First and Die


“So well the game itself was from like a tv show. It’s uh–its uh basically a stupid party game that a host ask the other guests ‘who’s gonna die?’ and whoever talks first got shot because of the idiom ‘the gun shoots the bird that goes in the front.’ So I think thats like–I dont know–thats like one of those Chinese phrases that originated probably thousand or hundred years ago because of a story that got condensed into like four simple words or four to six simple words. The phrase itself is:

Chinese: 枪打出头鸟
Phonetic: Qiāng dǎchū tóu niǎo
Transliteration: Gun beat out head bird
Translation: The gun strikes the bird which sticks its head out.

which means literally again the gun strikes like the first bird and I think this is pretty funny because there is another proverb that conflicts with this one.”


Informant (ZZ) is a student aged 19 from Shanghai, China. He attended high school in the U.S. and currently goes to USC. This piece was collected during an interview over dinner in the dining hall. He learned the riddle from a tv show, and the proverb he learned from the tv show. He doesn’t really care much for its meaning.


The riddle demonstrates how proverbs can be incorporated into other folk genres. The proverb itself demonstrates a desire within culture to conform rather than stick out.