'Duang' — the etymology of a meaningless word
The word “duang” only appeared in late February this year, but it has already been mentioned over 8 million times. Having first surfaced on Chinese social media platform Weibo, it has since drawn attention from the BBC, the Telegraph, the LA Times and many other foreign publications. No clear definition of the word exists, but the meme continues to spread like wild fire online.
What is it?
Meaning: Millions of Chinese are still trying to figure it out. It has no specific referent and is used more like an exclamation or a sound effect, at times similar to the way “ta-da” is used.
Pronunciation: Something like “dwong”, rhymes with “gong”. The word seems to be onomatopoeic. Pull one end of a spring towards you and release it. Duang.
The character: The word is written in Chinese using the two characters that compose Jackie Chan’s name, 成龙, stacked one above the other.
Usage: However you like.“Duang” works as an adjective, a verb or a noun. Examples we’ve overheard include:
– “This is duang funny!”
– “Have you duang yet?”
– “Duang! Welcome to our new event!”
Not to be confused with:
Tuang – Singlish for being lazy, skiving off.
Twang – The sound Country musicians make on their stringed instruments.
The word was popularised in a hoax video that spoofed Jackie Chan’s testimonial for Bawang shampoo back in 2004. Then, he said that he had “initially rejected the idea of doing a shampoo ad for the brand” and that he did not want the company to add special effects to make his hair black, shiny, bouncy, and… “duang”, thereby tricking consumers into buying the shampoo. At that time, very little attention was paid to his use of “duang”.
The spoof video (below) sets Chan’s testimonial to the catchy R&B tune “My Skateboard Shoes (我的滑板鞋)” – a song released in 2014. The video also parodies Chan’s words, saying that it was the use of special effects that made his hair appear better on-screen. The creator of the spoof video has remained anonymous.
Bawang Shampoo is a well-known herbal shampoo brand in China focused on preventing hair loss. In 2010, Bawang shampoo came under the spotlight when its solution was accused of containing carcinogens.
Jackie Chan is a kung-fu superstar, though not always the Mr Nice Guy we see on the silver screen. Chan gets his fair share of flak for personal comments, most recently that his son should “go to prison every year.”
Article by Jackson Lo