It’s almost midnight. I’ve been up since 5:30 a.m., and gone through my daily commutes plus watched Revenge of the Sith for the second time. (Brandon didn’t go with me to the first round at the Arclight.) I might as well just post what I scribbled together at work at lunch.
Have you ever opened your mouth and uttered something you think is crystal clear to someone, and they stared at you like you’ve lost your mind, and then you realized that something was lost in translation?
Here are some terms that both Thai and English-speaker can appreciate. I’m sure our readers and bloggers have plenty more to contribute.
Turn off the light / water
Thai term: Pbid fai / naam
Literal translation: close the fire / water
Pbid literally means to close. Somehow when it comes to electrical appliances and indoor plumbing, the term Pbid becomes “turn off”. As for the Fai, it is a shorten word for electricity, Faifa, literally means fire from the sky.
There are many occasions that I’d slip a “close the light” to someone. As I found out, in many other Asian languages, they also use “close the light”.
Kick the bucket
Kicking the bucket is a casual slang for someone being dead. i.e. Uncle Somchai kicked the bucket last night. But the real kicker is when a Thai speaker directly translates the phrase without knowing the context.
Kick the bucket can be translated to Thai as Tae Pbeep Dang, kick the tin can loudly (A pbeep is a square gallon size tin can.) Unlike its English counter part, Tae Pbeep doesn’t have anything to do with being dead. An old man to “kick the tin can loudly” as it were, means that he can still perform sexually.
Imagine my puzzlement the first time I heard that phrase.
And finally for tonight…
Piece of Cake
Easy as a piece of cake, that is how the saying goes. “Can you help me with this report?” “Sure, that’s a piece of cake.”
The research I’ve done has shown the origin of that phrase came from the light-verse writer Ogden Nash’s line in ‘Primrose Path’ (1936): ‘Her picture’s in the papers now, and life’s a piece of cake.’ The thought surely derives from the fact that for most people eating a piece of cake is easy and a pleasure.
Thai people wouldn’t associate easiness and pleasure with a piece of cake. We use Ngai penn gluay, easy as a banana, or Ngai muen mooh, easy like a pig.
Compare to many other Thai fruit, a banana is a lot easier to eat. And all you need to do with your pig is feed it scraps and that’s it.
Of course, being Thai, we condense all of that to just using just gluay or mooh as a slang for easy.
On the flipside, there are some sayings in both languages that are strikingly similar:
English: Finding a needle in a haystack
Thai: Ngom khem nai maha samut – diving for a needle in the ocean
Anyone else came up with some other misunderstood phrases and/or similar sayings?
The floor is yours.
p.s. Oh yes. I did consider writing about the Thai vegatables, namely pumpkin and chili. You bilingual Thai-English speakers probably know what I mean. 😉 But that maybe a little too wild for this blog. Haha.