Wet Top of the Staircase

หัวกระไดไม่แห้ง

/hǔua krà-dai mâi hÊEng/

………..UPDATE (1 March 2010)…………

Thanks to farangnahrak at Thaivisa.com and my friend Gai for the song reference, I now present you with a song หัวบันได้ไม่แห้ง by ไชยา & แอน มิตรชัย (Chaiya & Anne Mitchai). A ลูกทุ่ง /lûuk thûng/(country) song. Here on YouTube.

Another, longer music video on YouTube is here.

Note: Not a country music fan I was not aware of the song’s existence until my friend Gai told me of it. Rather repetitive, but playful and parts of it are quite cute (the lyrics, I mean).

This title of this song uses the alternative (more modern) version of the expression:หัวบันได้ไม่แห้ง/hǔua ban-dai mâi hÊEng/, which seems to be commonly used by younger Thais.

The (Thai) Royal Institute ราชบัณฑิตยสถาน explains the expression here.

Also, depending on your preference, there are alternatively translations of the expression, for example,  “wet stairhead” or “stairhead that never gets dry.”

………..ORIGINAL POST………..

There are some mistakes in the book sex talk I’m aware of (I’m pretty sure that are more that I’m at present blissfully unaware of). But I can only work with what I know. 🙂

A few weeks ago Catherine mentioned this expression in her review of the book, so thanks to her, when seeing the expression out of the book, I realized that I confused the top and bottom of staircases. Here it is:  on page 143 of sex talk I translated หัวกระไดไม่แห้ง as “wet bottom of the staircase.”

The translation should be “wet top of the staircase” and not “wet bottom.”

Why?

Because the term หัวกระได /hǔua krà-dai/ directly translates to “head of staircase” or “top of staircase.” Another variation of the Thai term is หัวบันได /hǔua ban-dai/.

The bottom or foot of staircase is called เชิงกระได /chooeng krà-dai/ 0r เชิงบันได /chooeng ban-dai/.

The explanation I gave in the book on the meaning and etymology of  the expression is correct:

In an old custom, a big jar of water would
be placed at the bottom of the front staircase for guests to
wash their feet before walking up into the house. So if
there are many suitors coming to court the daughter at the
house, the bottom of the staircase never gets a chance to
dry. (Sex Talk, p. 143)

Apparently it seems I mixed up the etymology with the meaning. It it true that in the old Thai tradition the water jar was normally placed by the bottom of the front staircase (still practiced in rural villages). After guests (suitors) washed their feet, they would walk up to the house leaving a trail of wet footprints. In fact, I imagine with a ceaseless stream of suitors the bottom of the staircase would stay soaking wet, at least damp, all the time. However, though the entire staircase  is likely wet in its entirety from top to bottom, the expression emphasizes only the head or top of the staircase; even with dwindling drops of water, the head of the staircase (หัวกระได) never gets dry (ไม่แห้ง).

The expression is generally used to describe the situation of a family that has a very attractive daughter with many suitors. (Nowadays, it is probably used with a family with a very attractive son as well.)

It is also used with a family or person with power and influence (that attracts a lot of admirers, cronies and hangers-on).

My apology for the mistake.

If you find any other mistakes in the book or read some expressions and still don’t understand, please let me know. Leave your question(s) here.

5 responses to “Wet Top of the Staircase

    • Cat, the prettier the daughter, the wetter the staircase is, I guess. 😉 I figured that’s probably how my mind was twisted and confused “top” with “bottom”. It’s just mind-boggling that I didn’t see that before until I saw the expression staring at me on your blog. And after I saw it, I was got even further confused trying to determine whether the “head of the staircase” (lit. trans) was at the top or the bottom of the staircase. Until the term เชิงบันได (“foot of staircase”) clarified it for me.

      • I know that some thrive at deciphering every little word, but (I believe) most skim in chunks, filling in holes with leaps of faith/logic. I chunk.

  1. If you have many visitors coming to your house all day long, the staircase will never get a chance to dry but the bottom will dry first and top later. So, I think ‘Wet top of the staircase’ means having more visitors than ‘Wet bottom…’

    • JJ, thanks for coming by. Interesting that you’d think the staircase bottom would dry before the top (let’s try this at home — teehee).

      I have a problem imagining that the bottom of staircase splashed by many buckets of water (over guests’ feet) would dry before the top, which suffers only wet footprints. But in any case, I suspect “wet bottom … ” would not inspire many visits. 🙂

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