Annals of inventive pinyin: rua

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This exercise video shows a woman repeating the syllable "rua" to describe a move that she makes:

Problem is that there's no Sinoglyph (hànzì 漢字 / 汉字) for writing that in Modern Standard Mandarin (MSM), although some might claim that it can be written with this character, ruó 挼 ("rub; knead; massage").

According to this table, "rua" is not a permissible / possible syllable in MSM, so naturally there is no known character for writing it.  Hence the individual(s) responsible for the supertitles on the video chose to write the sound in pinyin transcription.

Selected readings

[Thanks to Randy Alexander]


  1. JOHN S ROHSENOW said,

    June 4, 2023 @ 2:04 pm

    Could she be saying "ruó ah" (挼 啊)?

  2. Mo Nigeria said,

    June 4, 2023 @ 2:28 pm

    挼/捼/撋 might all work

  3. Platy Hsu said,

    June 4, 2023 @ 9:21 pm

    In this context 撸 is also frequently used, which has also been colloquially used to refer masterbation.

  4. Jonathan Smith said,

    June 4, 2023 @ 10:04 pm

    Re: "not permissible", rua is phonotactically fine i.e. synchronically may be regarded as an accidental gap, cf. zhua etc. Re: can she be saying [sth. else], nope :P The song is apparently 2NE1's 내가 제일 잘 나가(I AM THE BEST) a.k.a. 我最紅 with part of the Korean mantra funnily represented qia1lka1ga1 掐拉嘎 in the text of this video.

    The page below (and others) says that rua2~zua2 is a Southwestern Mandarin regionalism meaning approximately 'rub' but is otherwise very confused about how word/characters/logic work, so caveat lector…

  5. Jonathan Smith said,

    June 4, 2023 @ 10:04 pm


  6. Victor Mair said,

    June 5, 2023 @ 8:12 am

    Her movements are suggestive of vigorous rubbing.

  7. Victor Mair said,

    June 5, 2023 @ 8:26 am

    Interesting video presentation of 2NE1 – I AM THE BEST (내가 제일 잘 나가) – (Color Coded Han|Rom|Eng Lyrics) | by Yankat, with the lyrics in Hangul, romanization, and English translation:

    There are many other variations on YouTube.

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