Wise world traveller newbies to Thailand will of course prepare themselves for a visit to The Kingdom by learning useful phrases of Thai, the standards of which appear in almost every guidebook published during the last century. In this way when out and about the smart touri will be able to enquire of locals, “Hong nam you tee nai?” when the urge hits. Of course, this being Thailand no local will have a clue of what your mangled, heavily accented attempt at their language is supposed to mean and you’d do much better using the Thai word for restroom: Toilet. In that way you’ll get the directions you so desperately need. You just won’t be sure once there if that hole in the ground is actually what you were looking for.
Frequent visitors like to show off their familiarity with the country by peppering their speech with Thai lingo, frequent visitors who enjoy embarrassing friends also teach newbies to add the female ka instead of the male kop when greeting someone. Both indulgences are wrong and using either will guarantee that others will think you are an asshole. The truth is that other than the standard greeting of sawatdee you’ll find the actual need to know Thai is minimal. Most locals speak some degree of English, or if it is important will find someone who does. That doesn’t mean you do not need to brush up on the local language at all, it’s just that standard Thai isn’t the language you’ll need to fall back on. Thai-English, or Tinglish, is much more common in everyday use, and since it has a basis in your native language it’s assumed by local speakers that you will instantly comprehend what they are saying. You won’t.
Some pundits claim using Tinglish is a disservice to locals because then they’ll never learn proper English. But all that opinion does is to demonstrate just how little said pundit knows about Thailand. If a local really wants to learn proper English there are hundreds of schools available to teach them. And in most cases what they will learn is the same Tinglish all of their friends already know. Even better travel advice than not learning Thai is to never attempt to correct a Thai’s use of English. Your good intentions will not be appreciated. First, by doing so you just called them stupid which is a major insult to Thais. Especially to the stupid ones. Second, their country has already decided what the proper English word is to use, it is probably not what you suggested and is therefore wrong. Third, you are supposed to be on holiday, not trying to bring about world peace so forget it, go get laid and have a good time instead.
Here then, are the more common Tinglish words and phrases you’ll encounter in Thailand, and what they mean:
Toilet: A good place to start, a better place to go. If you are in need, don’t be polite and use euphemisms such as ‘restroom’ or ‘the facilities’, stupid colloquialisms like ‘the little boy’s room’, or odd ball non-American errors in language such as ‘the loo’. Hong nam is proper Thai, but everyone understands ‘toilet’. Or just grab your crotch and plaster a desperate look on your face (though you may then be taken to the nearest gogo bar instead).
Pee Pee: The Thai version of the word toilet is pee pee. ‘Toilet’ is a word for Farang to use, most locals when having to piss will say, “I go pee pee.” This translation also includes the given that you need to hand over a few baht for said Thai to pay the entrance fee to the restroom. Pee pee is universally understood in Thailand for the act of urination. However, if you are into water sports and suggest this act using the word pee pee to your boy du jour he will act completely clueless before pulling out his cell phone to answer a call that his friend or relative suddenly took sick and requires his immediate assistance. (See: Brudda)
Promotion: In the U.S. we call them sales, in Thailand they are called promotions. That’s because everything and everyone is for sale in Thailand so putting up signs to declare that fact would be silly now wouldn’t it? Promotions in Thailand usually provide for a discount off the original price of goods or services. Locals ignore them unless they are shopping with a farang’s wallet because they know the price of everything in the country is negotiable in the first place.
The way promotions work in Thailand is that you will see a sign announcing ‘Promotion’ that adds details such as 50% off. Knowing a good deal when you see one, you’ll stock up on the merchandise and take it to the half a dozen salesclerks who are required to handle your $20 purchase. The salesclerks will be totally clueless about the promotion (the sign for which is usually hanging directly above their heads) and after a half hour of using your best Tinglish to explain the discount you are due, you’ll be informed that offer is no longer valid. (See: Finit)
Free: Free is a magical word to Thais and should not be used in a joking manner. Invariably it translates into the Thai getting something that costs him nothing. Invariably this means it will cost you a lot. Free is not to be confused with ‘Promotion’ because promotions are for Farang and free stuff is for Thais. Following that logic, when a bar boy tells you, “I go wit you for free,” since you are Farang it is obvious he is holding a promotion and does not actually mean his services will not cost you anything. (See: Up To You)
Taxi: Since one of the first words of English you will encounter in Thailand is just outside the airport terminal where colorful, tiny little Matchbox cars are lined up with TAXI spelled out across their roof, you shouldn’t need me to tell you they are not called cabs in Thailand. So this would be a stupid entry in my Tinglish glossary. But the Thai language uses tonal values to change both meaning and definition of words. “Taxi,” said with a upward inflection at the end of the word is Tinglish you’ll often run into. Most often it is used by bar boys just after you have handed them their tip and it means, “Please give me another 100 to 500 baht for a taxi ride home though I will actually be taking the non air conditioned bus which will only cost me 5 baht.” (See: Promotion)
Finit: A useful Tinglish word that covers over, done, out, no more, closed, finished, among other standard English words. It is almost always expressed in a sad, woeful, and completely insincere voice.
Real/Not Real: Thailand is the world’s leader in producing counterfeit goods. Every brand name piece of merchandise you barter your little heart out for at the night market is fake though the incredible profits made off of you will be real. You may not be able to spot a fake from the real thing but Thais can and will be greatly insulted if you try to pass off that cheap-ass Polo short you bought for $10 in Patpong as a gift to your boy du jour who will turn up his nose and announce, “It Not Real.” (See: Big Cock Show)
She/He/Her/Him: Thais often confuse gender based pronouns and will call a him a her and a she a he. You can ignore the error with little consequences but should be aware that often times it is not an error. Many of the shes you run across in Thailand are actually hes.
Farang/Falang: The Thai language uses tonal values that completely change the meaning of words that otherwise sound and are spelled the same. Farang, sometimes pronounced Falang, generally means a white foreigner. With a downward emphasis it means a cheap fucking bastard who deserves to rot in hell for stiffing me on my tip. (See: Up To You)
Brudda: Much like how Jeremy Renner calls every male he runs across brother, Thais tend to call their fellow countrymen with whom they are acquaintances the Tinglish version: brudda, or more fully, my brudda me. Bar boys have learned Falang often assume a familial connection when this word is used and are more likely to hand over a few hundred baht to ‘help’ their relative out. Bar boys have also learned that falang often assume a familial connection and are willing to shell out with some major baht for the chance to bed a pair of brothers.
Papa / Mama: Both of these interchangeable designations are used as a proper name for a fictitious person who is sick and dying and for whom vast amounts of your money are required. (See: Buffalo.)
Boy: A boy is any male under the age of seventy-five who works in the commercial sex industry. Note that this word has nothing to do with age. Or gender.
Young Boy: This phrase is used by Thais selling their offspring and aficionados of Pattaya alike, the important part being the word ‘young’ which usually means ‘does not yet have hair.’ (See: Sunee Plaza)
Ladyboy: A ladyboy is never a lady and is possibly no longer even a boy. If pre-op, most ladyboys have a cock on them that would gag a horse. Which for some strange reason makes them quite popular among straight sex touri.
Money Boy: (See Boy, Young Boy, Ladyboy, and Thai)
Walking ATM: (See: Farang/Falang)
Buffalo: Or more properly ‘water buffalo’ refers to a beast of burden once commonly used in rural areas of Thailand in days gone by. The Buffalo, just by count of how many have died over the years, is now extinct in Thailand and poor families who once relied upon them for their daily sustenance have replaced the fabled animal with offspring sent to the big cities of Bangkok and Pattaya to earn money selling their bodies to rich Farang. (See: Young Boy)
Show Now: This is a standard greeting used by the friendly chaps who stand outside of gogo bars waiting to hold the door open for you. It is a friendly phrase that means, “Welcome to my club” and is not to be confused with any promise that the club’s show has begun or even that it has a show. (See: Promotion)
I Lie You: Many farang think this is a cute Tinglish phrase used by bar boys unable to properly pronounce the word ‘love.’ In truth, Thais are an honest people and this phrase is supposed to serve as a warning. Which always falls on deaf ears.
Up To You: This is an often misunderstood phrase of Tinglish used by a bar boy when asked how much he charges for his services. Farang often assume the phrase means it is up to the customer to decide how much to tip the boy, but it’s direct translation is, “It is up to you but you better make damn sure it is in line with what most pay or I will tell every bar boy in the country what a cheap bastard you are and that you have a tiny cock.” (Note that even if you do tip well the boy will tell all of his friends how small your cock is anyway.)
I Do Everyting: Closely related to the Tinglish phrase ‘Up To You” this one means it is not up to you. It also means whatever it is you want you are not going to get. Most often used by bar boys who have just been asked by a potential customer if he is willing to perform a specific sexual act, its direct translation is, “I do everything that you should expect a straight man to do which sure in the hell doesn’t mean allowing you to ride me for the next hour.” (See: Yes)
Take Care Me: This phrase of Tinglish is most often seen in personal ads on the internet, as in, “Look for good man take care me.” It means, “I want a rich farang who will fork over enough money for me and my entire family – if not my entire village – to live in a manner that less than 10% of my countrymen could ever dream of, who will preferably only visit for short periods of time every other year – if at all – and who will be happy with me even though I’m straight and have no intention of ever actually having sex with him.” (See: Money Boy)
Good Heart: Jai Dee is a Thai phrase that frequent visitors to Thailand like to use in their daily speech to demonstrate how knowledgable they are about the country (See: Asshole). It translates to ‘good heart’ which the same fools believe is a term of respect and honor but actually is used to describe a Farang who is willing to open his wallet willingly and often. (See: Walking ATM)
Smoke: Usually pronounced sa-moke, this is actually a Thai word that because it sounds like an English word is often used by Thais as a joke about or to Farang. (See: Gay)
Chuck Wow: You can’t blame the Thais for coming up with their own term for masturbation; if you used ‘choke the chicken’ it’d take your boy du jour back to his life on the farm. And spanking the monkey is something they probably do down south. Chuck wow is the preferred expression for Thai bar boys and is usually used as a directive such as, “Okay I finit, you chuck wow now.”
Gay: Thais are quite fluid in their sexuality. Especially when money is involved. They don’t quite understand the concept of gay/straight or top/bottom as it does not make sense to them culturally. Rather than using the word ‘gay’ as a sexual identity or life-style, most use it to mean someone who is effeminate (but not a ladyboy) and/or someone who bottoms. Which, let’s face it, is the same thing.
Big Cock Show: This phrase of Tinglish is most often used to announce the part of a gogo show where the boys parade around naked and erect. It has nothing to do with size. ‘Big Cock’ is also sometimes used by bar boys as a term of flattery toward a customer in hopes of getting a bigger tip. (See: I Lie You)
Yes: Culturally, Thais do not use the word no. It has a lot to do with face, yours and theirs. Which is a foreign concept to Farang and therefore is unimportant to us. What is important is realizing the Thai word for no is yes. (See: I Do Everyting)
Krung Thep: Wow! Some actual Thai! Krung Thep is the local’s abbreviated version of Bangkok’s official name which is Krung-thep-maha-nakorn-boworn-ratana-kosin-mahintar- ayudhya-amaha-dilok-pop-nopa-ratana-rajthani-burirom-udom-rajniwes-mahasat-arn-amorn-pimarn- avatar-satit-sakattiya-visanukam, which no Thai will ever use because he or she would have to stop half way through saying it to take a nap. The important thing with Krung Thep is to realize it is a designation reserved for the use of Thais. It is not to be used by Farang. So when you run across a foreigner – who is usually trying to impress you with his vast knowledge of all things Thai – and he uses Krung Thep, make a note that he is an asshole who doesn’t know shit and is probably best avoided. (See Khun Bao Bao)
Where You From?: Unlike with most Tinglish this phrase means exactly what you’d expect. Your answer, however, is where the problem may arise. The questioner is asking to determine how loose you are with your wallet and how big of a tip he can expect, not out of his interest in your home town. Most Thais can only name the countries that border theirs who they have been, and still are, at war with, so there is no reason to confuse them by naming some tiny little unimportant country that no one really cares about.
From past experience with visitors they also know the name of, but not the location of, England, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan, China, and America. If you are not from one of those countries, pick the one closest to yours. Also note Thais are unfamiliar with either the use of U.S. or U.S.A., if you are from there you’re best bet is to use the all encompassing Amerika instead. (Thai bar boys also know of India but are quite adept at reading ethnic clues and having already determined at a glance that you are from India will want to have nothing to do with your cheap ass).
Where You Stay?: A standard part of a bar boy’s repertoire, like with ‘Where You From’ the answer, not the question, is what is important here. When used by a bar boy in Bangkok, the hotel you name will tell him how rich you are and how willing you are to spend money foolishly. When used by a bar boy in Pattaya, the guest house you name will tell him whether or not he needs to borrow a friend’s ID to prove he is of legal age.
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