What's in a Thai name?
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What's in a Thai name?


One aspect about Thai culture that many visitors may be curious about or find fascinating is how we are named, as there seem to be some unwritten rules governing it. This week, I would like to shed some light on this unique aspect of Thai culture while airing my grievances with my fellow Thais who have encountered incidents regarding their names. Our struggle is real.

Please Sir, I Want Some More Blocks

You think Pornchai Sereemongkonpol is long-a**? Try Thanita Phuvanatnaranubala or Bhadajarabhakinai Dhanarpitivongsavadhadhana. I swear on Guru that these are real names and surnames. We, Thais with long names, dread the day when the blocks on an immigration form runs out while we fill it onboard an airplane. And I'm sure the extra seconds we take to make sure we correctly spell our surname in English every time we fill in such a form or book a flight does add up.

More importantly, people just give up on your important-sounding surname sometimes. They may mess it up or simply shorten it on a pick-up sign at the airport or a seat sign at the gala dinner. I find these incidents more amusing than anything.

Accidentally Naughty Words

Certain Thai words when transliterated into English can be a conversation starter in itself. Your new acquaintance may reply, "Porn what?", "Pleased to meet you Poo-chit" or "Nice to meet you, Titti-porn [with a smirk]". Thank Buddha, my parents did not name me คำอ่อน ฟักมี (Kum-on Fug-me) or บุญชิต ฟักมี (Boon-chit Fug-me).

Well, these jokes write themselves and there's no need for me to mansplain them.

'Big' Jokes

There's a subgroup of accidental jokes derived from nicknames that happen to people with military or police ranks. Once you're high enough in the rank you'll be given a new nickname in the media that is your nickname preceded by the word "Big".

Pol Maj-Gen Surachet Hakpal is "Big Joke". Pol Gen Srivara Ransibrahmanakul is "Big Poo". Some may find the latter moniker fitting given the news of late. Enough said.

Quirky Nicknames

Thai parents usually follow the holy or auspicious route when it comes to their children's real names but go the cute or unique route for nicknames. Take me as an example, I'm Thai with Chinese blood and a Japanese nickname "Sumo", and I'm among the oldest millennials. You should see the younger generations' nicknames. I've heard of YouTube, Google and iPhone.

What undue pressure N' Google must feel as he/she is supposed to be omnipresent like the search engine. How obsolete N' Nokia must feel? Think of the children, parents! g

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