Finally someone asked a question! And it’s from my regular visitor Catherine. Thanks, Cat. 🙂 The question:
Some time ago, I kiddingly called a Thai friend a toy boy. His English is good but does not cover all slang, so my other friend (female) tried to explain.
[Cat’s friend offered gigolo, mistress and words along that line.]
In the west, toy boy is a playful word. But she could not come up with an equally fun Thai equivalent. …
So my question is this… does Thailand have more relaxed, fun descriptions than prostitute?
When I first got the question, a ready word did not spontaneously spring to mind and declare itself a winner. I had some idea but wasn’t so sure. (Unfortunately I’ve never had any practical experience with toy boys — which might have primed me for this question. 🙂 So, I had to make do with asking a couple of Thai girlfriends.)
Ask them I did, and got more or less the same answer, which confirmed my suspicion that “toy boy” does not have a perfect equivalent in Thai, but a few approximates that come close enough – and with an interesting background to boot. Here they are:
เด็ก /dèk/ or เด็กเลี้ยง /dèk líiang/ — literally “a kid” or “a kid in one’s support”
These terms are slang, and do not connote that the “kid” concerned is a prostitute.
It all sounds very innocent and very altruistic, isn’t it? But read on.
The terms are playful like the slang “toy boy”. Despite its literal meaning, the “kid” in the Thai expression is not necessarily a young boy or young girl. Often it’s a young man or, more often, young woman — the term applies to both sexes.
In the old days there was a Thai tradition (widely practiced or not I don’t know) of raising and grooming a child since childhood to become one’s wife or husband (when the child “grew up” and became “old” enough to become one). This is a tradition called เลี้ยงต้อย /líiang tÔOy/.
The word ต้อย /tÔOy/ in the expression is an old term and means “little” or “small”, as in a little kid or a small child. Usually the child is a girl, though once in a while, I guess, that might happen to boys too. (ต้อย TÔOy is also a common Thai girl name.)
Since that kind of tradition, if practiced today, would likely lead one to prison, it is no longer (widely) practiced (there might be some stragglers out there). First, the laws prohibiting this type of thing would make it complicated and too risky a venture. Plus, people these days are too impatient to wait years and years for a future wife or husband to grow up. So เด็กเลี้ยง(ต้อย) /dèk líiang (tÔOy)/ these days aren’t exactly raised since childhood either – the future lover (masquerading as a patron) would look for a young thing who’s presumably old enough to be legally safe. And marriage would not be a prerequisite.
The few Thai girlfriends I asked first gave me the word เลี้ยงต้อย /líiang tÔOy/ when I asked them the question of how to say “toy boy” in Thai. But that’s not the word to call a toy boy (or toy girl), but rather a way to describe or tease someone for having a toy boy, or toy girl.
One of my girlfriends fingered มาช่า วัฒนพานิช the famous Thai celebrity who has a much younger (& sizzling hot!) boyfriend (whom Westerners might call her toy boy) as an example of someone who เลี้ยงต้อย /líiang tÔOy/ in the modern sense. (I know it’s hard to say who’s the ‘kid’ from the look of them in the picture. Believe it or not, the boyfriend is closer in age to the lady’s son.)
Still, even in this modern usage, when compared to the Western counterpart, I think the Thai version has a stronger connotation of patronage in the relationship. That is, a เด็ก /dèk/ or เด็กเลี้ยง /dèk líiang/ is often, though not always, financially supported by his or her patron-cum-lover: a condo, a car, brand name products, etc. are common gifts. It’s also not uncommon for the patron-cum-lover to pay for his or her dèk’s education as well.
(If you happen to read this, Macha, I’m not suggesting that you’re supporting your hunky sweetheart. With your beauty and youthful looks, the last thing a man — young or old — would think of in your company is your money.)
To sum it up, the expression เลี้ยงต้อย /líiang tÔOy/ is now commonly used with cases where a man or a woman has a much younger lover. But the toy boy (and often toy girl) is called เด็ก /dèk/, เด็กเลี้ยง /dèk líiang/ or less often เด็กเลี้ยงต้อย /dèk líiang tÔOy/ of the cougar, sugar daddy or sugar mommy.
Conceivably English-speaking Thais who know the English slang might just use the English version. One friend also told me that when the English term “toy boy” is used among Thais, it is often used among gay men and hence has a homosexual connotation. But I know nothing about this last remark.
Any comments and further erudition would be appreciated.
“Toy boy” or “boy toy” in English? In other words, is it “a boy who is a toy” or “a toy who is a boy”? Native speakers, please enlighten!
From Urban Dictionary:
Toy boy = Female cradle-robbing. The much younger male partner to an older or middle-aged woman.
Boy toy = A male used specifically by females for pleasure and fun when their husband or boy friend is not giving them enough attention or in case of break up or divorce.
And what’s the best Thai slang for it?
Is it เด็กเลี้ยง /dèk líiang/?
Someone suggested ของเล่น /khǑOng lên/ “plaything”, and another word just popped up in my head a little while ago ผู้ชายป้ายเหลือง / /pÔO-chaay pâay-lǔeaang/ “yellow-plate man” or “yellow-light man”? (“yellow” as in for “temporary parking”).
Please share your thoughts.