Understanding the DG Dialect

The Dongguan Dialect Archive Project was completed in September 2019 after five years of research. The field work covered all of Dongguan’s 32 towns, where pronunciation and even vocabulary often varies. Wherever there is a river or stream there is a different way to pronounce the last syllable. Led by professor Zhuang Chusheng, the team collected audio and video recordings of 37,000 characters, 38,400 words, more than 1,000 pieces of folklore, numerous idioms, slang, lullabies and two-part allegorical sayings.

“Dongguan lao maixi – ni sheng ding si jia (东莞佬卖席 – 你生定死架),” is one of Dongguan’s famous two-part allegorical sayings translating to “If a Dongguan man sells bamboo mats—it depends on who uses it, the living or the dead.” Bamboo mats sold by Dongguan people were usually shorter than normal size. If a customer raised any doubts about the length, the Dongguan salesperson would smartly reply, “It depends on who uses it. If the living use it, lie down and adapt to the mat. If it is the dead, does it matter?”

So, next time you encounter someone presenting a false argument, you can call him/her a Dongguan man selling bamboo mats.