Porn is Blessed (and other Thai names)

Thai people have a first name and a last name (which is new as of the early 20th century), but they usually go by an unrelated nickname.  The nickname is given to them at birth by their parents and is most often a monosyllabic Thai noun or English noun, but it can be pretty much anything that the parents choose.

PandanCake
Pandan Cake

Common girls’ names that are Thai words include Ploy (gemstone), Wan (sweet), Fah or Fahsai (blue sky), Baitoey pronounced bye-dtoy (pandan), Chompoo (Rose Apple), Fon (rain), and Tangmo (watermelon).  Common names taken from English are Milk, Gift, Noon, Dream, and Beam.

For boys, popular nicknames include Nung (one), Poo (crab), Phet (diamond), Pee (brother), Tar (pronounced Dta).  Some names from English are First, Third (why name your son Third and not First, I’m not sure), Ball, Top, New, Ice, Wave (as in Honday Wave), Boss, Nut and Peanut.  In my rural school there were many boys called Gun, Beer and Bank.

Then there are problems with spelling.  Cartoon is a popular girls’ name, but sometimes it’s spelled “Gartoon”, because cartoon in Thai is pronounced gartoon.  Makes sense.

Pair is a popular girl’s name, and so is Praew which is pronounced like “pair” but with a dropped or soft “r”.  Also Dear is pronounced “dia”.

Title is the name that causes me the most transliteration aggravation.  In Thai, an L character at the end of the word turns into an N sound.  So Title is pronounced Titun.  Which is shortened to what sounds like Tun but is spelled Tle.  I try to tell Tle that his name sounds like, well “tleh”, and if he wants to be called tun he could spell it Tun.

Some of my favorite conversation revolve around Thai names and meanings.  Sometimes the meaning is lost in translation, sometimes the entire conversation. Here are a few.

  • “Arm, what does your name mean?”

“Like arm,” as he grabs his right extremity.

  • “Ahm, what does your name mean?”

“The sound of eating.  Ahm, ahm, ahm,” and gestures putting food into her mouth.

  • “Meepooh, what does your name mean?”

Image result for meepooh“Bear.  Red and yellow bear.  Disney.”  Mee indeed does mean bear, so Meepooh is Pooh Bear.

  • “Nut, what does your name mean?”

“It means bean!” (In Thai, nuts and beans are the same thing.)

  • “Por, what does your name mean?”

“Short for Opor. Like a diamond.”  I show her a picture of an opal, and she nods.  I explain that it is spelled O-P-A-L.   “No teacher, not Open.”

  • “Pin, what does your name mean?”

“Like in a girl’s hair.”

Some of the most unique nicknames I’ve seen are Website, Nike, Simcard, and Fame for boys, Monet (as in Claude), Snow, Goodview and Film for girls.

And nicknames are changeable.  One particularly flamboyant student of mine declared his name to be Victoria Secret.

An the name Porn?  It’s a common part of a a given name because it means blessed.  Siriporn (blessing of glory), Somporn (blessing of worth), and Rattanaporn (crystal blessing) are among a few.

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