What makes Thailand such a special place is the people. Thai people are some of the warmest, gentlest people on the planet. Trying to speak a little Thai goes a long way. Since my Thai is limited, and I’m still figuring things out here, my relationships with Thai people are just the basic daily interactions I have had with people.
Nicknames are used all the time here, as Thai names are quite long and almost impossible to pronounce. Almost all the nicknames have a meaning, or a reason behind them. Some of the reasons are easy – a person is small, his or her name is the nickname for small – Lek. Others are a very shortened version of their name. Most are mono-syllabic, though they still have tones. (Thai language has 5 tones so one word could be pronounced 5 different ways, and mean at least 5 different things) The nicknames look easy, but depending on the tone, I could be saying anything from dog, to come, to horse. My favorite nicknames are the hilarious ones.
Although I know the nicknames are easier than their names in Thai, because they are so short, sometimes I get them confused. Here’s a short list to show you why that might happen: Noi, Boy, Goy, Joy, Neng, Deng, Ging, Gheen, Na, Naree, Aree, Lee, and the unfortunate instance in English, Pee (though usually spelled Phi). There are also lots of letters: Aey, E, Kay, Tee, and the aforementioned Phi. Kay is a larger man, Jim is a petite woman. I even have my own Thai nickname – Bua.
Yaya has a daughter who I thought was named named Gita, but it’s not as in Bhagavad, it’s actually Guitar (Gee-tah). Can you guess what she does? I know a little girl named Penguin who has a brother named Plankton, a guesthouse owner named Ping Pong, and then one night my friend Azriel and I met this little boy:
Azriel took this and the following video and needs to get full credit for both of their genius. Afterwards, he told me about some other amusing Thai nicknames of people he’d met: a baby girl born on December 25th named Santa, the siblings A, B, C, and D, a little kid named On Tour, and this one, which is my favorite:
Apparently she is hula hooping while texting in Azriel’s lobby on a daily basis. Love it!
There is no shortage of whimsical Thai nicknames. Other friends of mine have told me about Coffee Mate, and Folksong, and the list keeps growing. Today I was working with a student on writing and I asked why idea was capitalized in the middle of a sentence. He said he used to go to another school with a kid named Idea. When I asked about other funny nicknames he told me about North, Golf, and Mint.
If you know any Thai nicknames, feel free to share the love. I find these nicknames to be endearing, and one more reason to I smile here so often.