How to Call Your Sweetheart in Thai—Late Valentine’s Edition

Romantically challenged me

Yesterday, Valentine’s Day, my beloved husband gave me a beautiful Valentine’s card, a set of hugging-puppies salt & pepper shakers and a bar of chocolate ice-cream. If you think these are not the most romantic Valentine’s presents, think again. I gave him a hug, a thank-you kiss—that’s all I gave him. I forgot to get him any present for Valentine’s Day. A little ashamed, I told him “I Love You”—which is really true. In my own defense, I do say that to him often, though not so often as he says that to me. We have agreed long ago that he is the romantic one in the family.

Are Thais big on terms of endearment?

I’ve been pondering this question for some time. (Seriously, I’m not always a Valentine’s Scrooge.) I had previously believed that Thais were not into terms of endearment but I might have been proven wrong—or at least not all right. I have almost never heard Thai couples calling each other endearing names. Once I heard my old Thai lady professor and her farang husband call each other by a very strange Thai term of endearment which almost gave me a constipation. But that’s one whole other story.

Compared to Western couples, I think it’s fair to say that Thai couples aren’t very big on using terms of endearment with each other (they might call each other by other nicknames which are necessarily lovey-dovey). Things may be a bit different with Thai-farang couples, among whom I’ve seen a common Thai term of endearment used: ที่รัก /tîi rák/, although it is often (mis)pronounced as /tîi–lák/. In fact, isn’t there a girlie bar called “Tilac” somewhere in Soi Nana or Cowboy?

In my own case, it is my (farang) hubby who does all the endearing things. His default term of address to me is “darling.” Alternately it’s “sweetheart,” “baby,” and a few other terms which I probably should not mention (lest his manly reputation will be severely damaged or his macho friends will be put at risk of death from uncontrolled gagging).

Because my hubby and I speak English to each other, I am more accustomed to the English terms of endearment than the Thai ones. I tried to think of the equivalent Thai terms on my own yesterday and came up with a pathetically short list of three. So I asked my Thai Twitter friends who gave me over ten more. The lively discussion we had also stimulated me to recall some more that must have lain dormant in my consciousness. (Thanks especially to @Incognito_me @warong @iPattt and @PanusD.)

As a late Valentine’s present to my hubby (which I’m sure he won’t mind sharing with my readers), I’ve compiled a list of Thai terms of endearment. They might come in handy particularly for foreign lovers of Thais and romantically-challenged Thais like me. The list is in no way exhaustive, but if I may say so, it gives not a bad coverage of romantic terms of endearment in Thai. A few are rather honey-dripping sweet that may spike up your blood sugar level but more are fun, quintessentially and charmingly Thai but rather hard to translate. I tried my best.

Thai Darlings & Sweethearts

The standard modern edition

ที่รัก /tîi rák/* = dear, darling, love

*Just so you know the “correct” pronunciation is /rák/ with the letter ‘r’, not ‘l.’ I don’t know about other Thais, but I prefer the pronunciation of /rák/ with the letter ‘r’ which means ‘love’ because /lák/ with the letter ‘l’ means ‘to steal.’ Plus, to discerning ears /tîi lák/ with ‘l’ may not sound very polished.

หวานใจ /wǎan jai/ = sweetheart

I guess this term is probably a Thai translation of the English “sweetheart” for that’s what it literally translates as.

ดาหลิง /daa-lǐng/ or ด่าลิ้ง /dàa-líng/ = darling

This one leaves no doubt that it’s borrowed from English “darling” with variants of Thai-ified tone.

The charming & sweet Thai edition

คนดี /khon dii/ = my good girl, my love

This is one of my most favorites. It is not too syrupy sweet but very loving and intimate, and not too common. It can be used with either male or female lover. (It can be used as a term of address in non-romantic context, like with a child.) I think it is most effective and appropriate, when you want to soothe or console:

โอ๋ๆ ไม่เป็นไรนะ คนดี /ǒo ǒo, mâi pen rai ná, khon dii/

“Oh, come, it’ll be all right, my love.”

ทูนหัว /tuun hǔa/ = dearest, beloved

ยาหยี /yaa yǐi/ = dear, darling

These two are used in the same way as ที่รัก /tîi rák/ but are more traditional. Though a bit quaint, they are still quite charming.

น้องรัก /nÓOng rák/ = dear (lady) love

This is a term used with a female lover (it can also be used to address a dear younger sibling, which is the meaning of /nÓOng/). When you see น้อง /nÓOng/ in a romantic context, 95% of the time it refers to a woman (I’m leaving the 5% for the possibility that gay couples may use it too, though I have nothing to collaborate this). Traditionally the male lover refers to himself and is called พี่ /phîi/ and the female น้อง /nÓOng/, sometimes even if the woman is older.

The honey-dripping, li-ke-esque Thai edition

ยอดรัก /yÔOt rák/ = most beloved

สุดที่รัก /sùt tîi rák/ = dearest love

ยอดดวงใจ /yÔOt duang jai/ = dearest heart

These are beautiful terms of endearment—really, if you like li-ke ลิเก, the Thai operatic-cum-musical performance art. Or the old style Thai luuk-thung ลูกทุ่ง (country) music. They are not embarrassing at all provided you don’t utter it with your beloved in public. J They are just pushing the quota of sweetness for most Thais with modern sensibilities. But who knows, your Thai lover may like them.

The quintessentially &19th-century charming Thai edition

แม่ยอดชู้ /mÊE yÔOt chúu/ พ่อยอดชู้ /phÔO yÔOt chúu/ = most beloved lover

As I explained in my book, the term ชู้ /chúu/ used to mean “lover” in Thai but has turned bad. Now it only means lover in an extra-marital or extra-relationship affair. Not kosher. The above terms hence refer to the “most beloved lover” in the old sense, not in the modern sense. But if you happen to have one in the modern sense, there’s nothing stopping you from using it. I’m just not sure I can guarantee that it will go down well. The former term is used with female lovers and the latter male lovers.

แม่ยอดขมองอิ่ม /mÊE yÔOt khà-mǑOng ìm/ = ??

There isn’t an equivalent English expression for this one that I can think of. Hard as I tried. But how do you translate something that says “my brains-full dearest beloved”? Take your shot. I give up. Or if you know anything similar in English or any other language, please let me know.

แม่เนื้อเย็น /mÊE núeaa yen/ = my cool-skinned love

แม่เนื้ออุ่น /mÊE núeaa ùn/ = my warm-skinned love

If you have a penchant for Thai classical literature or poems, you might have seen these terms popping up here and there. Why both “warm-skinned” and “cold-skinned,” you may wonder. Think how wonderful it is to have a lovely, temperature-controlled human for a lover, who turns warm when it’s cold, and cool when it’s hot. Of course, this term, like all the other terms with แม่ /mÊE/ in them, is only used with female lovers. (In the old days, แม่ /mÊE/, which means only “mother” now, referred to females of all ages, matrons, maidens or little girls.) I have not come across the male version of the cool- or warm-skinned lover. Perhaps most poets rambling on about their lovers were men.

Come to think of it, I myself must have been inspired by these expressions. I sometimes call my hubby “my human furnace.” (But to tell you the truth, having a human furnace for a husband isn’t really so romantically conducive in Thailand’s climate.) That said, my beloved human furnace, if you are reading this, I love you regardless, and know that even in Thailand’s heat, I’ll never wish that you turn “cool-skinned.” How frightening that’ll be! Oh Lordy, Hubby, forgive me for even thinking that!!

There are more Thai expressions of endearment in romantic and family contexts, but let’s save them for another day.

THAI SWEET TALK for LOVERS

Sweet Talk for Thai Sweet HeartFor those who are interested in more sweet talk with lovers, you may want to check out the special Valentine’s edition of “Sweet Talk for Thai Sweetheart” my publisher has just released on Kindle—if you have Kindle that is. Sweet Talk is a small collection of romance-related expressions drawn from my book Sex Talk: In Search of Love and Romance and Christopher G. Moore’s book Heart Talk: Say What You Feel in Thai.

But if you don’t want to shell out a few bucks and feel particularly lucky, you can also win a FREE COPY of one of these books at either of the following two blogs:

Sex Talk by Kaewmala - Contest Feb 2011Bangkok Podcast where you can find my audio interview with Tony and Greg on Thai sexuality and Thai-farang relationship. Two signed copies of Sex Talk are to be given away to the winners in a contest here. The “contest” runs until February 20.

Women Learn Thai where Catherine is giving away two copies each of Sex Talk and Heart Talk … just because…

All you have to do is leave a comment or two on the blogs. Good luck!

8 responses to “How to Call Your Sweetheart in Thai—Late Valentine’s Edition

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention How to Call Your Sweetheart in Thai—Late Valentine’s Edition | Thai Woman Talks – Language, Politics & Love -- Topsy.com·

  2. Kaewmala, knowing about the hot and cool fruits in Asia – for hot, the lovely Durian comes to mind – it does makes sense to have hot and cold skins too. But until you mentioned it here, I didn’t really think about it.

    And the English language isn’t left out temperature-wise as it has hot-blooded and cold-blooded personalities.

  3. Pingback: Thai Particles of Endearment | Thai Woman Talks – Language, Politics & Love·

  4. There isn’t an equivalent English expression for this one that I can think of. Hard as I tried. But how do you translate something that says “my brains-full dearest beloved”? Take your shot. I give up. Or if you know anything similar in English or any other language, please let me know.

    How about:
    I can’t stop thinking about you… Or,
    I can’t get you out of my mind..

  5. Hi!

    Would you by any chance, know what ‘tuo mu mu’ translates to?
    That is not the spelling of the word, just how it sounds like. I only know that it’s something to do with pigs, but it was used as a form of endearment haha

    • /tua muu muu/ ตัวหมูหมู? Sounds like “porky person”. Suppose it can be used as an idiocyncratic term of endearment. Some (not very sweetly romantic) Thai couples call each other “uan”, which means “fat”. The object of such endearment terms is generally fat (อ้วน) or at least porkily rotund (ตัวกลมเหมือนหมู).

  6. Pingback: Ticklish Names Thais Call Their Sweethearts | Thai Woman Talks – Language, Politics & Love·

  7. I’d say that Thais are actually pretty sweet-talking with each other. Teenagers especially like to mimic what they hear on Thai TV with their “teeruk jaaaa” and other lovie dovie expressions.

    Good post, and please keep it up!

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