Wait. Was that English? Part 2

It’s been 4 years since I wrote the first edition of a post about the seemingly Thai words that weren’t Thai.

The ah-ha moments continue this time with the brands we THINK we know and love.

A lot of those seemingly Thai words and brand names I grew up are actually English. We pronounced them with our own flavor and absorbed them into our culture so well that no one could hear the original words in them any more.

Much like English-speaking folks would reach for Kleenex, not facial tissue, or Band-Aid, not adhesive bandages, Thai people ask for Breed or Fabb instead of Pong Sak Fok, literally translated to “washing powder”, proper term for laundry detergent.

It recently dawned on me when I actually saw the English packaging of the detergent in the grocery store that Breed is actually Breeze and Fabb is actually Fab…as in Fabulous.


But wait, there’s more!

We have always reached for Sun Lai to wash our dishes and Sun Siw/Seel for our hair. At least we got the “sun” part right but it’s actually Sunlight and Sunsilk.

My grandmother and later on my mom used to reach for this thing called Wig Wapoh-rub for us kids when we had the sniffles. The “Wig” part I was sure it was a brand, but I had always asked myself what the hell is a “Wapoh-rub”.

So when I finally see Vick’s VapoRub in English, everything made sense again.

Finally, the big bombshell.

When I was growing up, we all knew the toothpaste as Dah KEE with a guy smiling on the tube. Growing up with Japanese manga printed in black and white, we didn’t quite get it that the face on the toothpaste tube actually was a smiling black face in top hat was to go with Darky/Darkie toothpaste.

Obviously, in the mid 80s, the name was changed to Darlie and the face is now of a shaded white dude in top hat. (Wikipedia has the history here.)

Now I didn’t quite get the whole Darky/Darlie thing back then until I saw an old, faded bill posted on one of the roadside general store after a few years in U.S. college.

My thought: Ah-ha! Oh, wait. Oh my god. That was HORRIBLE!

I’m sure there will be more of those brands to jump out at me when I look at more stuff next time I come home.

Any of you can think of anything else?

10 responses to “Wait. Was that English? Part 2

  1. Fun article, thank you, Oaklie!

  2. Nice to read again from you!

  3. Chatri Joseph Bulner

    How about the word, “FAN”, that we use to refer to our boyfriend or girlfriend?
    Is that from an English origin, as in “fan” from “fanatic”?

    BTW-I always enjoy your blog. Thank you.

  4. I am very annoyed when I hear some Thai people try to mix English words in their conversation. However, they don’t use the loan word properly. Let me give you some examples:

    I will “mem” your number on my hand held phone.
    (I believe the word “mem” came from memory.)

    She is not my spec.
    (The person meant to say she is not my type.However, the word “spec” came from specification, and I don’t think we use specification with people.)

  5. Suzi, some of the words you’ll run into are well integrated into the language and culture.

    For example, like Chatri said, “fan” = boyfriend/girlfriend, more than likely derived from “fans” as in “fanatics”.

    Now, “Spec” is definitely from “specification”. And yes, it’s weird to be using specifications with people but hey, it still means the same thing. She’s my type = She’s true to my “spec”.

    “Buh” as in “numBER” is another one. We use that for telephone numbers to lotto numbers. Any non-quantifying numbers can be “Buh”.

    These words have been in my vocabulary that I didn’t even think about them any more.

    The recent digital age words, however, can be a little annoying, I must agree. “Mem” from “memory” means to add to your phone’s memory. To burn a CD or to “write” as CD is now “rai/lai” depending on the person’s ability to roll their proper R’s.

  6. Nice post. This is always an interesting topic.

    You can play this game all day with Thai nicknames, for example:

    “Maem” from Ma’am
    “Peet” from peach
    “Poen” from (ap)ple
    “cham” from champ
    “gop” from golf
    “boy” from boy, obviously

    And so on ad infinitum…

    Oh, by the way. This went unanswered in your post from four years ago. The guava is called “farang” for a very simple reason: it is native to the Americas, and was most likely introduced to Southeast Asia by the Portuguese in the 1600s.

    An 1820s account by John Crawfurd records that the Siamese call guava is called “kloa farang” which was probably his way of spelling of “kluai farang” (white man’s banana).

    In the two centuries since then, it has become shortened to simply “farang”. So it’s named after the westerners who introduced it.

  7. Stephen Cleary

    ……where she lives with her American husband. (No, he didn’t buy her from a catalog or met her at a go-go bar.)

    Hah! Buy her from a catalog! I like it…. Just a minute, where’s my copy of Little Wives monthly? Darned, hope me wife hasn’t got hold of it!

  8. Happy Songkran Oakley. Missing you loads….. oops, forgot you already married! Hope to see you hanging around a bit more. Btw: hope that’s not a real elephant there.

    Going on from Oakley’s blog is a blog i wrote ages ago (link in website URL above)

  9. Steve, I miss you too! Hit a patch of dry spell around here for inspiration. I educated people around me so much I don’t have any “conflict” to share any more. Hahaha! But I’m looking for inspiration daily. 🙂

    And yes, that is actually a real baby elephant. What can I say, I can be quite a tourist.

  10. Some of my friend’s most common brand names: “tesco lotakh” for tesco lotus, and “lolik” for rolex.