It’s been six months since I first wrote about weird Thai nicknames. I had thought it was going to be a single post on the topic but by the time I finished the article I realized it was just an hors-d’oeuvre.
Thanks to many of you for leaving comments and sharing more weird nicknames on the last post, which I added to my collection. There were also plenty more on the internet—mostly on Thai web boards. It seems not only foreigners have a thing for crazy Thai nicknames. Thais love strange Thai nicknames too. The research was great fun and educational. I could go on collecting more but it was going to be an endless process. At one point I had to tell myself to stop, otherwise I would never write a sequel I had promised.
Putting some order into weird Thai nicknames
Looking at my jumbled collection comprising several sheets of raggedy paper overcrowded with names handwritten in various colors, pointing to various directions, I was disorientated. There was no way I could make sense of it all without putting some order into it first. (I love putting things in order—an unfortunate personal affliction which sometimes comes in handy.) So I scanned for patterns and 13 categories of weird Thai nicknames jumped out at me (thankfully not all at once).
- Traditional Thai food and confectionery
- Western food and confectionery
- Sports and recreation
- Love of nature
- Catchy concepts and cool state of being
- Let’s not be shy about wanting riches
- More famous brands
- Parents must be either lazy or just sticklers for order
- Parents must be geeks who need to get out more
- Aww, how precious(ly weird)!
- Really? But why?!
Can you see now why I needed a system?
When is “weird” no longer “weird”?
Frankly I am now wondering how long the adjective “weird” will hold up for all the seemingly strange Thai nicknames. Looking for weird Thai nicknames is like looking for round pebbles on a beach. The more you look, the more round pebbles you find. You go from weird, to weirder, to how could it get any weirder, and there are still more where they come from.
When does “weird” stop being “weird”? I guess the point at which “weird” isn’t so weird anymore is when people don’t make much or any notice anymore. Maybe that point has already been reached for some of the nicknames I will include in this installment and future installments to come.
Does the fact that more and more Thai parents are crazily adopting ever more unusual, fantastic, strange, bizarre, far-out and mind-blowingly ridiculous nicknames for their kids make the nicknames any more normal, or less weird? Say, if every other Thai person has a weird nickname, does that make those commonly weird nicknames normal? But then “commonly weird” is an oxymoron.
Anyway, this is actually one of the things I appreciate about my fellow Thais, who ordinarily are obsessed with conformity. But when it comes to names and nicknames, Thais just can’t have enough uniqueness and go to ridiculous length to get it, even when it means naming their kids in the way that no other people on earth would even dare contemplating.
You’ve had your hors-d’oeuvre, so are you now ready for the main course? Yeah, you may chuckle. But at least in this first installment of the Deluxe Edition you will see that the gastronomy analogy isn’t so inappropriate as you might think. By the time you finish reading Part 1, you will likely feel stuffed or suffer a stomachache from over consumption of many different foods and beverages of the weird Thai nicknames.
Let’s have some drinks first.
Pepsi เป๊บซี่ and Cola โคล่า are common, as already mentioned in the first post. Now added to the soft-drink category of Thai nicknames are their lesser peers Fanta แฟนต้า, Sprite สไปรท์ and Seven-Up เซเว่นอัฟ (the last often shortened to just Seven in actual use—like the “Seven” shortened from 7-Eleven).
If you are wondering whether Thais prefer Western-style beverages, the answer is no. There are plenty of Thai-style beverages that serve Thais’ needs for sustenance as well as unique individual designation. Among the more common ones:
Nam Wan น้ำหวาน /náam wǎan/ (syrup; sweet drink)
Nam Oy น้ำอ้อย /náam ôoy/ (sugar cane juice)
Nam Phueng น้ำผึ้ง /náam phûeng/ (honey)
As nicknames, these super sweet drinks are for girls. As beverages, for anyone with sweet tooth.
There are a variety of other healthful Thai beverages more recently adopted as nicknames, mostly for girls as well, but you won’t run into Thai girls with healthful beverage nicknames everyday as they aren’t in great numbers—yet.
Nam Som น้ำส้ม /náam sôm/ (orange juice)
Nam Khing น้ำขิง /náam khǐng/ (ginger drink)
Nam Khow น้ำข้าว /náam khâaw/ (rice milk)
Nam Nom น้ำนม /náam nom/ (breast milk or milk)
Nam Rae น้ำแร่ /náam rÊE/ (mineral water)
(*Nam น้ำ means water, liquid, juice, or milk.)
From here we leave the outer periphery and enter the inner realm of Thai nickname weirdness. Orange juice, ginger drink, rice milk and mineral water are normal as drinks and have a potential to soon become kind of normal as nicknames. But breast milk? While perfectly normal as baby food, I have doubt as to its future as a common beverage for people of any age, but who knows it may be just weird enough to become a common Thai nickname eventually. Still though, how can anyone ever call a girl “breast milk” and not think of the milk source?
I have learned to never say never about Thai nicknames. According to at least one source there is a girl nicknamed simply Nom นม, which can mean either “breast” or “milk” (I hope, and likely, it’s the latter). Yes, in case you wonder, there are girls (maybe boys too) nicknamed with the English word Milk, although to western ears the nickname when said by Thais won’t sound like what you expect. It will likely sound like Miew มิ้ว (because Thais don’t express the final sounds that don’t exist in Thai final consonants, e.g. ‘s’, ‘t,’ ‘k’, ‘f’).
There are many more Thai drinks for many more Thai girls and boys in need of unique nicknames. Some resourceful parents have turned perfectly ordinary Thai beverages into extraordinary nicknames such as:
Nam Cha น้ำชา /náam nom/ (tea)
Ka Fae กาแฟ /kaa-fEE/ (coffee)
Cha Yen ชาเย็น /chaa yen/ (sweet iced milk tea)
O-Liang โอเลี้ยง /oo-líaang/ (sweet iced black coffee)
But Thai parents are forever looking for the new extraordinary. Coffee and tea in liquid form may have lost their edge for some parents searching for the next, as yet unheard of, item for a nickname for the little one. I heard there is at least one kid somewhere nicknamed Bai Cha ใบชา /bai chaa/, “tea leaf.”
In recent years Starbucks has introduced to many urban Thai parents more shades, styles and sizes of coffee—all of which are considered hip (for now). For some reason as yet undetermined, certain parents felt that latte was among the hipper of all the hip Starbucks beverages on offer, so Latte ลาเต้ gets reborn, immortalized for at least one lifetime of a Thai kid. (Note to self: Look out for “Coffee Bean” reincarnation.)
Next, it might have been intended as a tribute to the usefulness and versatility of a certain liquid: Soda โซดา.
Previously I was under the impression that another common drink Beer เบียร์ was a boy’s name. I was recently proved wrong by Thailand’s new culture minister, a mother of three, nicknamed Beer. (Meet her here on Global Post, introduction by Patrick Winn.) I’m quite willing to pay 50 baht to know the nicknames of her three children… Okay, all right! 50 baht for each nickname!
UPDATE: How could I have forgotten Punch พั้นช์! (Thanks to my Twitter pal @Incognito_me for reminding me.)
The list of Thai beverages as nicknames will not be complete without spirits. One that keeps popping up in many threads discussing Thai nicknames is Seagram ซีแกรม. I’m not sure if it refers to the Chinese brand of gin pictured or something else. I have also seen a cheap wine-like beverage with very low alcohol content by that name.
Talking of wine, there is a nickname after this type of alcoholic beverage as well: Wine ไวน์. It’s unclear if it’s a girl or boy nickname. It could be unisex. Given there exists a tendency (as yet small) to pick nicknames after types of consumer products, I suspect there might also exist Thai kids going by Whisky วิสกี้, Brandy บรั่นดี, Vodka ว้อดก้า, Tequila เตกีล่า, or even Sake สาเก but I have no information to confirm this. I am less inclined to think that there’s a nickname “Lao Khow” เหล้าขาว /lâaw khǎaw/ (the extremely potent and illegal homebrew Thai whisky made from rice) but my incredulity has been shattered by so many Thai nicknames before. As you learn more you will come to believe like I do now, that anything under the sun is possible when it comes to Thai nicknames.
My research has not been exhaustive for nicknames in the distilled spirits department and this is not the area in which I am particularly well versed, being a non-drinker myself. Nonetheless, given the Thai love for brands I have a strong suspicion that the nickname Chivas ชีวาส exists because it appears to have such a popularity and that unquantifiable “preferred” sound and aura among Thais (educated speculation from having seen TV commercials of the said product).
Of course, there are also famous brands of alcoholic beverages like Singha, Chang and Heineken in the beer category, and Red Bull (known in Thai as Krathing Daeng กระทิงแดง) among energy drinks. But again I have no confirmation, so will stop speculating further on alcoholic nicknames—and end the Beverages section—right here.
2. Traditional Thai food and confectionery
Thailand has long been a major rice producer and No. 1 rice exporter in the world until very recently when Vietnam snatched that title away from us. We Thais love eating rice and naturally are proud of our rice—many wonderful species and types of rice in fact. So it’s no wonder that rice is found among the Thai nicknames.
Our ancestors must have been proud of our rice too but I don’t believe it ever occurred to them to name their children after what they had for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. But perhaps the present generation felt the need to remind ourselves of our cultural heritage now that we are also eating many other non-Thai foods—or some parents just couldn’t find other cool nicknames to give their kids. Whichever the reason, a few Thai kids are now nicknamed after various kinds of Thai rice, at various stages and in various styles of preparation.
Khow ข้าว /khâaw/ (rice)
Khow Hom ข้าวหอม /khâaw hǑOm/ (fragrant rice; jasmine rice)
Khow San ข้าวสาร /khâaw sǎan/ (milled, polished rice)
Khow Klong ข้าวกล้อง /khâaw klÔOng/ (half-milled rice, husked but unpolished)
Khow Suay ข้าวสวย /khâaw sǔaay/ (steamed rice)
Khow Niew ข้าวเหนียว /khâaw nǐaaw/ (sticky rice)
Khow Pan ข้าวปั้น /khâaw pân/ (sticky rice roll)
Khow Maak ข้าวหมาก /khâaw màak/ (fermented rice, a stage before rice wine)
Khow Fang ข้าวฟ่าง /khâaw fâang/ (millet, Sorghum)
I’m sure I have left off some types and species of rice now walking around in Thailand on two legs, but you get the idea.
In Thai cuisine rice is the main staple that comes with various dishes, so naturally there are lots more yummy Thai nicknames that make you hungry. But lest you forget, this is not really a Thai gastronomy course. I’ll present only the Thai dishes that I have confirmed to double as nicknames.
Among those that go extremely well with rice, steamed or sticky kind, are Moo Hwan หมูหวาน /mǔu wǎan/, “sweet pork,” and Moo Ping หมูปิ้ง /mǔu pîng/, “grilled pork.”
These two are my most favorites in the food category. A brother and a sister named Nam Phrik น้ำพริก /náam phrik/, “chilli paste,” and Pla Too ปลาทู /plaa tuu/, “mackerel.” This pair is as Thai as they come and go heavenly with steaming hot rice.
There is another common traditional Thai dish that surprised me despite it all: Kaeng Som แกงส้ม /kEEng sôm/, “spicy sour curry” (containing various vegetables and fish or prawns). Again, heavenly with steaming hot rice (but then just about any edible thing is heavenly with steaming hot rice—if you like rice, that is).
What’s more, it appears that single noodle dishes are also popular as nicknames.
Padthai ผัดไทย /phàt thai/ (stir-fried noodles)
Khanom Jeen ขนมจีน /khà-nǒm jiin/ (Thai rice noodles in various sauces or curries)
Mii Kiew หมี่เกี๊ยว /mìi kíaaw/ (yellow noodle and dumpling soup or dry dish)
Wun Sen วุ้นเส้น /wún-sên/ (vermicelli, often in spicy salad or plain or spicy soup)
Khow Kaeng ข้าวแกง /khâaw kEEng/ (rice topped with curry and/or other dishes)
Among the five dishes above, my personal favorite is Khanom Jeen, the Thai rice noodles with many selections of sauce and curry in a variety of tastes and colors, including reddish spicy coconut milk soup with minced fish or fish balls (Nam Ya น้ำยา), red chicken curry (Kaeng Kai แกงไก่), green chicken curry (Kaeng Khiew Hwan แกงเขียวหวาน), sweet chilli peanut
sauce (Nam Phrik น้ำพริก), Northern Thai pork, tomato and blood curd curry (Nam Ngiew น้ำเงี้ยว), and refreshing sweet-salty dressing sprinkled with crushed dry shrimps and thinly sliced hot chili peppers in fish sauce and coconut milk with chopped pineapple on the side (Khanom Jeen Saw Nam ขนมจีนซาวน้ำ). Check out this galore of Google images of Khanom Jeen, in both human and culinary forms.
Nicknames in the food category also include basic food stuff like “flour”: Paeng แป้ง /pÊEng/, which also means “powder.” I suppose you’ll just have to ask each Paeng you meet (a good chance you’ll meet many) whether she is flour or powder. And then there is “gluten,” you know, the kind of flour that becomes gooey and mucus-like when cooked: Paeng Piak แป้งเปียก /pÊEng pìak/, literally “wet powder.” I consider myself very broad-minded, but seriously, gooey, mucus-like flour for a name!
Yet, that wasn’t the end of sticky, gooey food as nicknames. We move from mucus-like flour to “wet tamarind paste”: Makham Piak มะขามเปียก /má-khǎam pìak/. And how about “boiled vegetables”?: Phak Tom ผักต้ม /phàk tôm/. These last three nicknames, I think, belong better in the later category of “Really? But why?!” but well, they are also food.
While we are at it, let’s see what other vegetables that have upgraded their status from mere veggies to cool nicks.
Phak-kad ผักกาด /phàk-kàat/ (lettuce or cabbage)
Kana คะน้า /khá-náa/ (Chinese kale or Chinese broccoli)
Kwangtung กวางตุ้ง /kwaang-tûng/ (Chinese cabbage)
Phak-chi ผักชี /phàk-chii/ (cilantro)
Bai Toey ใบเตย /bai tooey/ (pandanus leaf)
Phak-bung ผักบุ้ง /phàk-bûng/ (morning glory)
Fakthong ฟักทอง /fák-thOOng/ (pumpkin)
While these are all very nutritious veggies, not all serve extremely well as nicks, especially the last. See, “pumpkin” may be a term of endearment in English but its Thai name isn’t exactly endearing or polite (to English-literate ears). Imagine a kid introduces himself to a foreigner: “Hi, my name is Fak-thong.” Luckily he can always get a new nickname when he’s old enough to figure out the English F-word.
That was the main course. Now let’s look at deserts.
Bua Loi บัวลอย /bua lOOy/ (flour balls in coconut milk)
Thong Yip ทองหยิบ /thOOng yìp/ (syrupy golden sweet in flower shape made of egg yolks)
Thong Yod ทองหยอด /thOOng yÒOt/ (syrupy golden droplets, made of same)
Foi Thong ฝอยทอง /fǑOy thOOng/ (syrupy golden serpentine, ditto)
Unlike the rest of Thai nicknames mentioned here, these four are actually traditional names for Thai girls that have become old-fashioned. But I include them here for two reasons: first, they are absolutely yummy and you should know about them both as Thai deserts and names, and second, to show the arbitrariness of how certain names can sound old-fashioned while others sound cool, although they came from the same source.
More modern Thai desert nicknames are no less sweet, though less elaborately prepared. Here we have two basic ingredients of Thai deserts, “sugar,” Nam Tan น้ำตาล /náam taan/ and “coconut milk,” Kati กะทิ /kà thí/. The latter is apparently inspired by a recent SEAWrite award-winning and very popular book entitled “Happiness of Kati” (ความสุขของกะทิ), which features a girl named Kati.
Then there are traditional Thai deserts made adorable nicknames like Pui Fai ปุยฝ้าย /pui fâay/, literally “cotton-fluff” (which is a kind of steamed cake in various pastel colors), and Sai Mai สายไหม /sǎay mǎi/, “silk thread” (sugar fluff ball)—see pictures.
That final set among sweets are the candies:
Luk Om ลูกอม /lûuk om/ (candy)
Om-Yim อมยิ้ม /om yím/ (literally “suck and smile,” J otherwise known as lollypop)
Tang-me ตังเม /tang mee/ (sticky sweet, i.e. toffee)
Kalamae กาละแม /ka-la-mEE/ (Thai pronunciation for “caramel”)
3. Western food and confectionery
Western food is still a newcomer among Thai nicknames, hence a very short list. In the last post, you saw Pancake แพนเค้ก, the actress. The update is she has found herself a subject of political news lately when she went out with the new lady PM Yingluck to visit flood areas about a week ago. So, perhaps to neutralize suspicions that she favors one political side over the other, she has appeared in public events with the ex-PM Abhisit as well.
Pancake may be the best known Western food among Thai celebrities, but among Thai musical talents, it’s Pizza พิซซ่า. “Pizza” is better known as Trisdee Na Pattalung), Thailand’s young musical prodigy and fast rising star conductor /composer.
(He is my fellow twitterer @Trisdee, and I should have asked him how he got his nickname, or whether the Italians called him “Maestro Pizza” when he was conducting in Italy last year.)
Western fruits have fast rivaled Thai fruits as nicknames. But it seems western vegetables have some ways to go against their home-grown competitors.
I have collected just one western veggie nickname: Carrot แครอท. It’s possible as anything is possible that there might be Broccoli, Celery, Asparagus, Arugula or Artichoke out there, but not highly probable because Thais are averse to nicknames with more than two syllables, not to mention that the ‘r’ and the ‘l’ and the many vowels will make pronunciation just a tad difficult and confusing for Thais: Celery would become Celelly; Broccoli, Bockoli; and Arugula, possibly Alagalu…. Kind of defeat the purpose of cool nicknames.
More popular are the nicknames from western-style bakeries, such as: Cake เค้ก, Cookie คุกกี้, Brownie บราวนี่, Doughnut or Donut โดนัท and Waffle วาฟเฟิล. (Yes, Waffle.) There’s the Thai version of Caramel, so why not the original version too: Caramel คาราเมล, although the famous thirty-something Thai TV personality by that nickname chooses to spell it กาละแมร์ in Thai and Kalamare in English. (See Kalamare in the picture below.) I have no idea as to what a correctly spelled Caramel might look like.
Likewise, there’s Thai Luk Om ลูกอม, so why not the English original Candy แคนดี้. And although there is no “Butter” (that I know of), there’s the Thai version Noey เนย to represent the basics in western cuisine. Come to think of it, there must also be Khanom Pang ขนมปัง, if not Bread (but I can’t be sure, it’s all so arbitrary). I can be sure, however, of:
Yam แยม (Thai pronunciation of “jam”)
Yam Roll แยมโรล (jam roll)
Jelly เจลลี่ or เยลหลี (in the latter pronunciation, another Thai female celeb, a luuk-krueng model)
And finally for this category, there’s supposed to be Snickers สนิกเกอร์ (chocolate bar), who might have a friend nicknamed Mustard มัสตาร์ด. Why? I wouldn’t even ask.
That’s the first installment in the deluxe edition. The next installment will cover the next 5 categories:
- Sports and recreation
- Love of nature
- Catchy concepts and cool state of being
- Let’s not be shy about wanting riches
- More famous brands
As always, your comments and suggestions of nicknames are welcome.