Friday, April 10, 2009

Item!

Just to let y'all know, I've decided to start writing more, possibly shorter pieces for GBB. For whatever reason, I have avoided making this blog an online journal. I've tried to make each post have a thesis or speak to some deep sociopolitical/sociological shit, and I feel like this has stopped me from writing as often as I'd like. Sometimes there just isn't a larger argument to make, you know? So, in the interest of getting me to actually WRITE more, I've decided to just post about whatever I feel like, no matter how trivial or banal. Instead of being a collection of mini-essays (my original goal with this thing) this will now be more of an all around chronicle of my time here in Bangkok. From here on out, I hope to write at least once a week, and more if I can. This one here is about Thai nicknames. Enjoy!


Just about ever Thai person has a nickname. Many Americans have nicknames--as do many Italians and Eskimos and Angolans--but not quite like this. In English speaking countries someone might reduce their given name to a monosyllable for the sake of brevity (or perhaps levity) or acquire an affectionate hypocristic from friends or family. A grown man might even request that his friends start refering to him as T-Bone or Spike, against his better judgment. But Thai nicknames are somewhat different. For one thing, they are given at birth rather than acquired. To understand why this is, let's look at the conventions of Thai naming.

First and foremost, Thai names (both given names and surnames) tend to be long. For the sake of example, here are some recent additions to my facebook friends list: Waranya Tieammuang, Saran Mahasupap, Natthawinee Thannin, Atchara Saigaew--you get the idea. Even when they're not all that long, they're often difficult to pronounce, so children are given nicknames which in effect become their main appelations in all but the most official or formal of circumstances. Much of the time these nicknames are simply Thai words, and tend to be rather mundane or even slightly negative (someone told me this has something to do with warding off evil spirits or somesuch)--Kung (prawn), Lek (small), and Get (raisin) are common examples. Like I said, some are rather negative, like Uan (fat) or Moo (pig).

But the best Thai nicknames tend to be English words. Golf seems to be one of the more common ones, particularly for girls (it was explained to me matter of factly that, "Well, a lot of peoples' fathers like golf." Fair enough. Other funny ones include Pink (or Pinky), Oat, Note, Dookie (a Green Day reference I drunkenly made after meeting a girl named Dookie was met only with blank stares), Champ, Top, Pop, Mook, Pez, Air, and Oil. I have a lesson group at Berlitz with two kids named Fame and Boss in it--if only Champ were also in that class. Again, many are mundane: children are often nicknamed Ay, Bee, and See to denote their birth order, or named after letters of the alphabet (Oh, Pee, et cetera). Anyway, since I am no longer bound by any sort of rhetorical regulations, I think I'm going to eschew conclusions from now on too! Peace!

SJF

3 comments:

lisa said...

one thai guy gave me the name "fern" because he thought ferns were pretty. how romantic.

Tay- Saran Mahasupap said...

Hey, Stephen !!!

Today I have nothing to do, so I google my name and accidentally found it right there on your blog. So glad that is epistomized as Thai name. ;]

Your blog is really interesting. Keep on writing, man. I like to read it. :]

Tay

Alex said...

Tay-Saran Mahasupap's comment above made me realize something: if you're Thai and have an extremely unique name, as you outlined in your post, "Addendum," it must be possible to google your name and actually find yourself, even if you're not famous. Amazing!

I, for one, am sick of googling myself only to read about some douchey General Manager of Wolfgang Puck. Ah, to be Thai...