Be careful using Thai language in an English speaking country!
There are certain words in Thai and in English which sound the same but mean something entirely different and not being aware can land you in embarrassing situations.
Let me give you an example:
The other day my wife and I went to the market to shop for meat and vegetables for her to cook some Thai food. Since I speak some Thai, sometimes she speaks Thai to me when she can’t find the appropriate English words. This is often at times when she talks about Thai dishes.
She tends to talk to me in a loud voice, especially in places where there is a fair bit of background noise, such as an open air market.
So as we walk around looking at the produce, she gets an idea of a Thai dish to make and blurts out “gaeng phuek” (curried pumpkin), but to all and sundry around it sounds like, you guessed it, “gang fxxx”. Then she compounds the error, talking about “phuek kheow”, another pumpkin dish, except now she sounds like as if she is saying “fxxx you”. You should have seen the commotion and glares this caused, everyone looking in our direction to see who is the victim of this crime?
I was looking for a hole to disappear in, but before I had a chance to do a Houdini, she is asking this kind, elderly ethnic type seller the price of “Prick” (chili), except, you guessed it, he understands it as “prick”. Now he is getting quite indignant, thinking this woman called him a prick. “Whatsa matte wit ya, porka putana, dant ya calling me a prick!”
“Hey, you dago bastard, don’t you call my wife a prostitute” says I. Now we have an international incident! But my wife is impervious of what’s going on around her and tugs on my shirt sleeve: “ask him for “Prick”, she says.
“His price is too high, we’ll look somewhere else”, I tell her as I pull her away from the scene before I get lynched by the mob.
“I don’t understand why you always pick fights with people, jai yen yen!” she tells me as we flee the fracas. “Darling, please remember in the future, I don’t like pumpkin” I tell her.
“But you loved it in Thailand” she says. “ Yes”, I reply,” over there I loved to order it, pronouncing the dish with such gusto, and they always smiled at me for being so adapt in Thai.
Little did they know I was swearing at them!”
Then, back in Thailand there can be some misunderstandings in reverse too.
Example: You sit in a bar / cocktail lounge and the mamasan approaches you: “Would you like a girl?” “Thanks, but not just yet (yet=fxxx in Thai slang)”, you say. And she replies, “ It’s included too”. “What is?” “I think you want “yet” she says. You say : “I said “not yet”.
“Ah, you’re gay, you want this boy here?” she says. “Is He (Hee=pussy, in Thai slang)?” you ask. <Be careful with this word, it is VERY coarse and is equivalent to the "c word" in English, perhaps even worse! – Stick>
“No”she says, “he waiting for operation”.
Now you’re thinking in Thailand you become gay by operation.
“It’s Ok, I’ll just sit here for a while nursing my drink quietly, thanks” you say.
A little while later she returns with a service girl, dressed as a nurse.
“I think you may want someone to help you with nursing”, she says with a smile.
Well, you got to smile too, it all worked out for the best anyway!
I never forgot the first time I flew on Thai Air.
Just as we were taking off, this beautiful hostess announces: “Welcome to Thai International, have a present fright!”
I nearly jumped out of my skin, quickly glanced out the window to see if we had an engine on fire. This was a long time ago, now most of them are “look kruengs” (mixed race) speaking with an American accent.
I never really got the hang of the Thai language, I could not properly use the 5 tones required. Pronouncing a Thai word with the wrong tone can lead to disastrous results, so I had many funny / uncomfortable / confronting episodes when I tried speaking Thai.
When we lived in Thailand my wife used to scold me for saying the inappropriate words to Thai people, even though I did not mean it. Now the shoe is on the other foot, here it’s her that ‘s uttering all sort of obscenities without meaning to.
Now she is attending English language classes, provided free to migrants here, somewhat similar to Hans Meier’s wife in Europe. The problem is most of her classmates are Chinese, so her mandarin is improving, but her English is still the same. The other day she came home and greeted me: “nee hao mao”!
I said, fair enough, if we gonna start speaking Chinese, I might get myself a Chinese concubine.
I know how to put her in her place!
No comments today….sorry, so busy.