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Friday, October 02, 2009


Thai names

Thai people tend to have rather long names often extremely difficult for Westerners to pronounce. It seems all Thais have nicknames which makes it a lot easier for us.

Nicknames don't always seem polite but Thai people are not usually bothered. My friend's nickname is Moo. That is the equivalent of calling someone Piggy in English but he doesn't seem to worry about it. His daughter's nickname is Eiko (not sure of the spelling) which is actually Japanese. When his son was born they chose the nickname Mac but wanted to keep the 'i' sound a the beginning. He became iMac. And my friend is not a Mac user.

The baby got his nickname as soon as he was born but his formal name takes a little longer. An astrologer has to work out what is auspicious for the child. There are certain conventions. They like lots of syllables but I did hear that there is a limit. Only royalty can have names over a certain number of syllables. Don't quote me on this. I can't find anything authoritative but I'm sure I heard something like that.

It's become fashionable for Thais to receive English nicknames these days. But you can't be sure. Some words sound English but perhaps they have a Thai meaning. For example, one kid in a class I teach is nicknamed Poo. They might choose to spell it differently but that is the pronunciation. I looked it up in a Thai dictionary and in Thai it means soil; ground; place; land. Take your pick.

Here are a few more nicknames from my classes. I'll spell them the way they sound: AA, Ache, Bam, Base, Bim, Copter, Fa, Film, First, Gate, Gong, Jack, Jam, Jay Jay, Jeanie, Joke, Joy, Jerry, Lily, Miaow, Mo, Oat, Parn, Pee, Pie, Pin, Pim, Ping, Ploy, Prim, Program, Pry, Spy, Youie.

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Interesting post. I hadn't heard that about a maximum length of name. What I did hear (when I was doing research into the Thai language) is that if you're an immigrant to Thailand then you have to have a *new* Thai surname, one that isn't already in existence, which is how some of them get to be so long.
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