dawn » dong

Chiefly in:   dong on s.o.

Classification: English

Spotted in the wild:

  • “At first it was just a fun thing to listen to your recordings, but then it finally donged on me that Victor is actually talking.” (link)
  • “Then it donged on me, Broadcom is providing the source code, the vendors just add their tweaks and change some logo’s.” (link)

Analyzed or reported by:

Liberman gives 14 examples from the net, and comments:

An “oops” page notes this as one of those cases where someone has “taken a common phrase or word and mutilated it”. The discussion highlights the poetic force of such mistakes:

The funny thing about this was that it was a former neighbor of mine whose name was Dawn. Putting aside the fact that she wasn’t the brightest beam shining through the window, I think she hit on something here. I mean, when something dawns on us, isn’t it often like a “DONG!” on the head?!?


Nice justification for the eggcorn.

| link | entered by Arnold Zwicky, 2006/08/09 |


  1. 1

    Commentary by Kurt Queller , 2006/08/31 at 9:28 pm

    Re: the eggcorn “It (finally) donged on me” [dawned]:

    I like Mark Liberman’s speculation that the source of this folk etymology may involve the notion of suddenly getting “donged on / over the head” with a blinding realization. However, I find another image at least equally, and quite likely more plausible as a source for this reanalysis — namely, the image of bells going off as it suddenly becomes clear to someone what the situation is, or what response is required.

    In favor of the latter hypothesis, consider:

    1) the verb “to dong” may have either of these senses (ringing like a bell. or hitting, esp. on the head — cf. the OED entry, pasted in below), but the “hit over the head” sense is noted as largely Austr. & NZ usage. I will grant that I, as an American who has never been south of the equator, am familiar with this “hitting” sense, esp. in the threatening speech act usage “If you {do that again}, I’ll dong you one” (cf OED entry, 2, examples from 1960, 1961). But note a couple of things: (a) the “hitting” construction is transitive (”{so.} dongs {so.}”), whereas the eggcorn “it donged on me” involves a construction that is both intransitive and impersonal — just as does the target [or source] construction “it dawned on me.” (b) The semantic connotations also fit less than perfectly; donging so. over the head is more likely to knock them unconscious than to bring them to a sudden realization (unless it be that they’d better desist from {whatever it is} in the future, for fear of similar punishment). The one OED quotation that explicitly refers to a cognitive effect of getting donged (1928) in fact does involve “a whirring void” (1928) — something closer to unconsciousness than to realization.

    2) The “ringing” sense seems to fit better not only constructionally (see above), but also semantically. There is a quite plausible basis (in our culture) for associating “ringing” with “correct perception / realization of the real situation or of the correct response” — namely, the “TV quiz show” frame or script, in which the sudden ringing of bells signals that a contestant has come up with the correct answer. In fact, in conversation people do sometimes, invoking this frame, jocularly respond with “ding-ding-ding-ding-ding” to a realization that someone (perhaps dimly or belatedly) has made. (Search “ding-ding-ding” at the website indicated above — one of several suggesting that this kind of sarcastic reference to a realization that ought to have been obvious from the start is already highly conventionalized.) Of course, a form such as “it finally dinged on me” would be a closer fit to this “TV-quiz-show-frame-based sarcastic comment on someone’s belated realization of the obvious” discourse routine — but that seems no more problematic for the hypothesis than does the relative uncommonness of “dong” as a stand-alone verb in the “ringing” sense. “Ding” and “dong” are conventionally and closely associated onomatopeias, and if anything an associative shift from “dinged” to “donged” (here of course primarily motivated by simple acoustic misanalysis of “dawned”) adds further sound-symbolic “resonance” to the image, because of the relatively heavy or dense phonaesthetic quality of the back rounded vowel. (This is again assuming that the usage in question in fact tends to carry a rather sarcastic “well, like, DUH!” connotation or prosody, as in the website example.)

    DONG (v) [OED]

    1. intr. To sound as a large bell.
    1587 FLEMING Contn. Holinshed III. 1579/2 Where they might..heare the donging of the belles as they hoong in the steeples. 1954 J. MASTERS Bhowani Junction xxxiv. 291 A copper~smith bird donged with maddening persistence among the bushes in the garden.

    2. trans. To hit, punch (esp. Austral. and N.Z.); to force by reiterated noise, speech, or effort. Cf. DING v.1 2a. colloq.
    1889 MRS. E. LYNN LINTON Through Long Night I. I. xv. 243 She had to be dinged and donged into obedience. 1928 BLUNDEN Undertones of War 291 The drum-tap dongs my brain To a whirring void. 1930 Bulletin (Sydney) 7 May 21/1, I done me block an’ donged ‘im proper. 1937 N. MARSH Vintage Murder vi. 66 It was certainly a high-class way of murdering anybody… Dong him one with a gallon of champagne. 1959 I. & P. OPIE Lore & Lang. Schoolch. x. 196 ‘Dong him on the dome’ (head). 1960 N. HILLIARD Maori Girl III. x. 133 I’ll dong you if you say it any more. 1961 P. WHITE Riders in Chariot xi. 410 ‘I will dong you one,’ shouted Hannah, ‘before you tear this bloody fur.’

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.