The chick(en) says ko-ko-de(k)

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In Incredible Things, Brittany High has a very brief article entitled "This Chinese Music Video Is Every Kind Of WTF".  I think that, if you watch the video, you'll agree with her.

Brittany writes:

This is a batshit insane music video for the song “Chick Chick” by Chinese pop group Wang Rong Rollin. It makes stuff like “What Does The Fox Say?” seem absolutely tame. I don’t know what the hell I just watched but I’ll have whatever they’re having.

And Rob Beschizza, over at boingboing, endorses Wang Rong's hit:

"Calling it already: China's 'Chick Chick' is the song of the year" (11/17/14)

Rob picked it up from Lori Dorn, "‘Chick Chick’, The Bizarre New Farm-Themed Song and Music Video from Chinese Pop Star Wang Rong" (11/15/14)

So it looks like there's a movement afoot to make Wang Rong and her group go global.

Here are the lyrics, which consist almost entirely of the sounds and names of animals.

For those who wish to expand their repertoire of the language of animals, as rendered in Mandarin, here is a long list.

A (Korean) friend of a friend of a friend on Facebook says:

I am surprised that I can understand the song because they are using Korean words like words for "cock-a-doodle (ko-ko-dek)." This is quite an interesting development of so-called "Korean wave" in Chinese pop culture I guess.

VHM:  They should have written "cluck-cluck" instead of "cock-a-doodle [do]".

Another Korean friend who knows Chinese well adds:

I do agree with that Facebook comment about " gū-gū-day / 咕咕day." It does sound exactly like the Korean words for "cock-a-doodle-do."  [VHM: –>"cluck-cluck"]  I haven't listened to the song very carefully, but what I hear from my poor laptop speakers is that the pronunciation of mǔjī 母雞 ("hen") sounds like "kimchi."  Is something wrong with my ears?

I concur with this friend that what the singers repeat over and over again for 母雞 doesn't sound much like mǔjī.

Comments from two more Korean colleagues:

Indeed, it sounds 꼬꼬댁 (RR/MR:  kko-kko-daek; meaning: cackle [hen's sound]) to me.
Korean roosters cry 꼬끼오 (MR/RR: kko-kki-o).

The clucking sound of a chicken is 꼬꼬댁 (Yale kkokkotayk), so obviously Mandarin loses the syllable-final /-k/.

Whether and to what extent the singers are attempting to insert Korean words into their song, there can be no doubt that they are affecting K-pop dress and moves (girl bands and Psy's "Gangnam Style", for example).

Another influence that seems to have been absorbed by this Chinese group is the mega-hit by Ylvis, "What Does the Fox Say?" — a topic that came up on Language Log last Christmas Eve.

Judging from the amount of deliberate Chinglish (more English than Chinese) in another song from the same artist (?), " HàolèDay 好樂Day" (lit., "enjoy amusement / entertainment day", i.e., "Holiday"; she likes the sound of "day"), this band is not shy about borrowing from other languages and styles.

[Thanks to Ross King, Haewon Cho, Brendan O'Kane, Hyoshin Kim, Rebecca Fu, Daniel Sou, Fangyi Cheng, and Mark Metcalf]


  1. JANE said,

    November 18, 2014 @ 1:51 pm

    If I have any talent for music, I would say this awful music is a copy cat of a few songs.

    The first 40 seconds resembles and its Taiwanese Hokkien version

  2. jfruh said,

    November 18, 2014 @ 1:51 pm

    I think it's interesting that some of the subtitles are Chinese characters and some are Latin letters. Is this because there are no characters for some of the nonsense syllable animal noises they're using? What would the traditional Chinese method of writing some meaningless syllables have been?

  3. Paolo said,

    November 18, 2014 @ 4:19 pm

    just to add to the mix, in Italian hens go coccodè /kokko'dɛ/

  4. William Steed said,

    November 18, 2014 @ 6:20 pm

    I was hearing 母鸡 as [m.ʨi] when I heard it yesterday, and wondered if it were using another topolect's pronunciation – for a while I thought Wang Rong must be Taiwanese (and I was wrong).

    This did, however, teach me the MSM word for 'viral video': 神曲.

  5. David Morris said,

    November 19, 2014 @ 6:41 am

    I played this song for my ESL class today. I managed to find a connection. A major theme in this week's chapter of the textbook has been adjectives for describing personality, which lead to material on astrology and palmistry as a way to discern and explain personality and predict the future (or not). I had previously found information about the Chinese zodiac signs, so I printed that out and we discussed the signs and whether the students matched theirs. That naturally led to this song, for some light relief. In the middle of this song there is a rooster crow, and one student immediately said the onomatopaeic word for a rooster crow in his language (Nepalese), so I got him to spell it – 'kukurika'. As it turns out, I was also planning to play them the Greek song 'to kokoraki' as sung by Flanders and Swann, but the computer in my classroom couldn't play that video, so I found another video, which fortunately had the Greek words in English script and animated cartoon animals. In Greek, according to the song, the animal is 'kokoraki' (cognate with 'cockerel') and the sound is 'ki-ki-ri-ki-ki'.

  6. Paolo said,

    November 19, 2014 @ 7:24 am

    @David Morris, also in Italian cockerels go chicchirichì /kikkiri'ki/

    (in Spanish too, according to How to sound like a Cockerel in 5 languages).

  7. Victor Mair said,

    November 19, 2014 @ 10:25 am

    A friend of mine sent me this, saying he thinks that it can compete with "the chicken clucking video":

  8. John Emerson said,

    November 19, 2014 @ 12:46 pm

    Another chicken song, from Taiwan 1983 or before. I think that the rooster is a cock just like in Englsih.

  9. John Emerson said,

    November 19, 2014 @ 12:51 pm

    I heard "guqi" for "muji" (hen).

  10. David Morris said,

    November 19, 2014 @ 2:38 pm

    BTW, I also realised that English has more words to describe the sounds of domesticated animals than it does the sounds of wild animals. Also, none of my students was able to suggest a suitable word for the sound made by a dragon.

  11. Rob said,

    November 19, 2014 @ 5:39 pm

    One of my favourite spoilers when in the car with wife and kids enjoying 'Old Macdonald had a farm' is to interject with unusual animals and listen to the kids struggle with the follow-up lines:

    "Old Macdonald had a farm, ee-eye-ee-eye-oh. And on that farm he had a"

  12. David Morris said,

    November 19, 2014 @ 9:41 pm

    I currently have one student from China. She wasn't in class yesterday but was today, so I showed this to her. In 30 seconds she said it was 'Korea sort of Chinese', in a minute she said 'This is stupid' and in 90 seconds she walked out of the room with an explanation or even saying goodbye.

  13. Wentao said,

    November 19, 2014 @ 11:00 pm

    @William Steed
    Yep, and I don't know how Dante feels about this – 神曲 also means "The Divine Comedy"!

  14. Benji said,

    November 20, 2014 @ 5:14 pm

    In terms of batshit-craziness, I think J-pop icon Kyary Pamyu Pamyu remains unmatched. e.g.

    Also, while the editing and the constant beat make it seem disorienting, a surprising proportion of the imagery struck me as a recognizable pastiche of various cultural influences, ranging from pop art to the Brady Bunch to the great Armenian film The Color of Pomegranates (the clothing, colors, and composition at about a minute in look (at least to me) like a deliberate reference to shots such as this: ). Other elements feel like references, though I can't quite place them. Of course, why these influences were combined in this way remains a mystery.

  15. Richard W said,

    November 23, 2014 @ 4:42 pm

    Wang Rong has also written a catchy number called 我们的钓鱼岛 (Our Diaoyu Islands), although I don't know that she's ever visited the place.

    Diaoyu Islands, Diaoyu Islands
    Since ancient times they're China's islands
    Don't pretend you don't know …

    Recently posted to YouTube:

    (There is currently one comment there: It's amazing that people can be convinced to be angry about a few useless rocks in the ocean where no one has ever lived, and no one ever will. These islands have nothing to do with your life, or the lives of anyone you'll ever meet!")

  16. Rachel said,

    November 25, 2014 @ 12:51 pm

    The video for Holiday also has some interesting language stuff going on:

    It's in thoroughgoing Chinglish, with phrases like "Teacher teacher 常常 say", "那些 no 是 today 的 thing" and "where good where cool 我们 where stay". Wow. I don't think I've seen such… aggressive? equal? mixing of Chinese and English lexicon over a Chinese grammatical base. Very interesting.

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