What’s In A Name?
I just read Dana's rather excellent piece on Thai Nicknames and thought that I would add the following (true) story:
Back when I lived in the Thai countryside my (then) wife had a niece who lived with us.
Djims' mother and father had separated: Her Father was working in Bangkok and we didn't see too much of him, whilst her mother was still living nearby, working as a builder. Djims' mum didn't really have much of a home, very little money and an abusive boyfriend so Djim stayed with us. This was no great burden as she was an incredibly cute and precocious little girl.
She first started living with us when she was around five. She was quickly roped in to doing those little chores around the house that were achievable by a young girl of her age, as is the way in the majority of Thai households, and was pretty much treated as our daughter.
To be honest, it was a real pleasure to have her around, and I had absolutely no problem with that at all. She was such a cutie, how could I?
Once she started at the local, temple school I always ensured that I was on the front porch when she came home every day. Those 6-year old wais were too good to miss.
She and I started learning to read Thai at around the same time – she quickly overtook me; her attempts to teach me the Thai Alphabet song never really got very far, despite repeated attempts.
When the wife and I went out on outings Djim would often accompany us. Like little girls everywhere, she loved outings, especially when we took off for the day to the beach at Cha Am.
On these outings she usually took it upon herself to take charge of me, holding my hand and dragging me down to the best beach chairs. She would go racing off across the sand in pursuit of some brightly coloured kite or Kanom vendor. I'd usually be given the task of fetching her back; Picking my way through the densely packed umbrellas and beach chairs calling “Djim, Djim” at the top of my voice. Of course I'd get a lot of stares from the Thais on the beach chairs but, living where I lived, I was pretty used to stares and paid them no mind. You don't see too many Farang on the beach at Cha am, or you didn't then. So what?
My parents came to stay for a holiday. They thought she was a little darling too and couldn't get enough of her. They were quite exotic to Djim (I being the only other Farang she'd seen) and she took a shine to them too. In their time with us they spent quite a bit of time with her and would often lavish little gifts on her. Of an evening, after a hard day of tourist-type activities I would often take them down to sit outside the local corner shop to enjoy a cold beer and discuss the day's activities. Quite often, the subject of Djim would come up. My mum liked Djim, my dad liked Djim too, and I liked Djim: We would also draw stares from any Thais who happened to be around, but hey, what do you expect? It's not Bangkok.
I attended the wedding of my sister-in-law (a different sister). We took Djim. At some point in a fairly drunken afternoon we realised that Djim was missing. Once again, I was called upon to look for her. “Where's Djim?” “Has anybody seen little Djim?” I got a lot of blank looks and what I thought may even have been insulting remarks but I was a bit merry and if they can't handle a Farang's attempts at Thai well screw them. Anyway, Djim showed up later; she'd been off making friends with some puppies all along.
As is the case in rural Thai towns, a lot of community activities center around the local temple. Ours was forever having fairs and movie shows, which were all good fun. My wife, Djim and I would wander round the stalls. Djim was getting a bit older and she'd be off poking amongst the stalls, investigating the cheap plastic toys, I'd call for her and ask if she wanted some kanom or such and again, this would draw stares and giggles from the people around us. This from people who knew me, or at least were used to seeing me around. Maybe I shouldn't be calling out? Was I becoming paranoid? What was going on?
Well, All the above and more went on for a few years. I lived on in blissful ignorance. Djim arrived at the age of eight and one day my wife made an off-hand remark about how she'd have to think of a new nickname for Djim.
“Why what's the problem with her current nickname” I obliviously enquired.
Did you guess it yet?
“Oh it's Thai slang for pussy” came the reply.
I'm very surprised someone would be given such a nickname in Thailand.