KATHMANDU, March 3: The character “duang” is so new that it does not even exist in the Chinese dictionary. But it has already spread like wildfire online in China, appearing more than 8 million times on China’s micro-blogging site Weibo, where it spawned a top-trending hashtag that drew 312,000 discussions among 15,000 users. On China’s biggest online search engine Baidu, it has been looked up almost 600,000 times. It’s been noticed in the West too, with Foreign Policy seeing it as a “break the internet” viral meme – like a certain Kim Kardashian image, or a certain multicoloured dress.
But what does it mean?
“Everyone’s duang-ing and I still don’t know what it means! Looks like it’s back to school for me,” said Weibo user Weileiweito.
Another user asked: “Have you duang-ed today? My mind is full of duang duang duang.”
“To duang or not to duang, that is the question,” wrote user BaiKut automan.
“Duang” seems to be an example of onomatopoeia, a word that phonetically imitates a sound. It all seems to have started with Hong Kong action star Jackie Chan, who in 2004 was featured in a shampoo commercial where he said famously defended his sleek, black hair using the rhythmical-sounding “duang”. The word resurfaced again recently after Chan posted it on his Weibo page. Thousands of users then began to flood Chan’s Weibo page with comments, coining the word in reference to his infamous shampoo appearance.
The word appears to have many different meanings, and there’s no perfect translation, but you could use it as an adjective to give emphasis to the word that follows it. A kitten might be “duang cute”, for example. Or you might be “very duang confused” by this blog.
For readers of Chinese characters, the Jackie Chan theme is also apparent from the quirky way in which the word is written: a combination of Chan’s Mandarin names.