More on "duang"

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A couple of weeks ago, we had an extensive discussion of Jackie Chan's famous expostulation about the wondrous effect of his shampoo that went viral on the Chinese internet.

Isoraķatheð Zorethan has some interesting things to add:

Recently I have read your blog post on the word "duāng", and it prompted me to do a little digging. More specifically, searching for an equivalent video on YouTube, I found a Taiwanese report on the word. I notice that the newsreader says it like "duīyāng". I do not know why.

But more importantly, later on the video shows a clip of a Cantonese speaker rendering the word. And then, being a native Cantonese speaker myself, I noticed a possible connection between duāng and a Cantonese word (?) read something along the lines of "dong6ngyew6" (≈ /do(ŋ)˨ ŋjew˨/ ?)

This is news to me because I have never seen the word being written before. But by pure serendipity I went to a wiki that describes Hong Kong internet culture and voilà.

The article seems to support the idea that duang ← dong4L but other than the original connection in the video linked above I cannot give any more evidence. In any case, I hope this information proves useful to you.

I asked Isoraķatheð for clarification on several points:

1. In this clause of yours — "I noticed a possible connection between duāng and a Cantonese word (?) read something along the lines of "dong6ngyew6" (≈ /do(ŋ)˨ ŋjew˨/ ?)" —  are the two question marks meant to indicate no more than doubt or supposition on your part?

2. About "dong4L":  is "dong4" Pinyin or Jyutping?  (Judging from the Wikia site, it seems to be Pinyin, with the equivalent Cantonese being dung6L.)  And is "L" meant to be a suffix pronounced more or less that way, or does it have some other significance?

3. Do you think that "dong4L" (I'm going to use the Cantonese pronunciation and write "dung6L) is more or less equivalent to "dong6ngyew6" (≈ /do(ŋ)˨ ŋjew˨/)"?

4. I have a theory about why the Taiwan newsreader pronounced it as "duīyāng", namely, many speakers of Mandarin — even for foreign words — strictly limit themselves to the acceptable inventory of MSM syllables, and will pronounce anything they hear as some combination of those syllables.

Isoraķatheð replied:

[1] Both question marks are because I am not sure if I got it exactly right; I'm not sure if "word" is the best word to describe what 動L is: a word, a lexeme or something else. I am not well-trained in the terminology. The latter is because there's quite a lot of variation in the exact vowel used, for instance /ŋjew˨/ could have the /e/ become /a/ sometimes. So "?" marks uncertainty in notation, rather than uncertainty in knowledge. Though now in retrospect I realize that the video contains the intended pronunciation which would be useful even if my notation is inaccurate, so all that indication of uncertainty wasn't strictly necessary. Whoops.

[2] It is Jyutping. I use tone 4 and tone 6 interchangeably with this word. I wrote 4 because I use 4 more than 6 but clearly the Internet disagrees with my pronunciation. The mix-up of U and O though is a genuine mistake, for which I apologize.

[3] The two are identical. L in this case is the pronunciation of the letter L; I decided to "expand" L by writing the pronunciation of the letter in Jyutping in "d[u]ng6ngyew6", hopefully indicating that the L has a /w/ ending. And as before, I mixed up U and O.

[4] That may be the case, but I don't know enough to test this.

Fascinating material!

So, on the matter of "duang!", there remain at least two big questions:

1. whether Jackie Chan's "duang!" was a spontaneous, sui generis exclamation elicited by the miraculous effect of his shampoo, which caused his hair to bounce around in a most charming fashion, or whether it has roots in earlier Cantonese expressions

2. whether, in simply writing "duang", people have forgotten that, for a spell after the original airing of the shampoo ad, there had already developed various ways to transcribe Jackie's spectacular ejaculation:   「動L」(Cantonese dong6 l)、「動呦」、「動啊」、「動AL」、「Dong'al」

Whatever the results of further research and analysis on Jackie Chan's epochal exclamation may tell us about its actual genesis, the overall trajectory of its development in recent weeks has been to Mandarinize and Pinyinize what appears originally to have been a Cantonese expression.  The quixotic creation of a new character composed of the two characters that make up his stage name — chéng 成 ("become") + lóng 龙 ("dragon") — has no chance of catching on as a functional transcription of "duang", which is working fine just as is.


  1. Dan said,

    March 19, 2015 @ 1:52 pm

    For #4, I'm curious why the Taiwan newsreader wouldn't go with "duo'ang" or "duowang" instead of "duiyang", for the standardized pronunciation of "duang". Perhaps the "ei" coda is seen as weaker or less intrusive than "e/o." Maybe this is related to the common pronunciation of 這 "zhe" as "zhei."

  2. APOLLO WU said,

    March 19, 2015 @ 9:09 pm

    I heard over conversation that the word duang refers to the sound generated by pressing the approval button by a judge in a TV contest. If a contestant receives all duangs, he or she will be rewarded.

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