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Acerbic Humor T-shirts In Thai Which Went Wrong. ..


Tod Daniels
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Hi,

I lurk on these forums a lot, and this one about the Thai Language has been helpful in getting me started down the long perilous, winding road to reading/speaking Thai.

I've been here just over a year; learned a small number of "must know phrases", then slowly started to decipher Thai. I decided to make some T-Shirts which in America would be of the "tongue in cheek" or "acerbic humor" variety. Not the ever popular; "I met YOUR wife at Nana", "Thai Gurls (take two they're small)", or "Bar Gurls (collect them all, trade them w/your friends)" shirts. (Which were all good sellers, btw). These new ones I decided to make in the Thai language but. . ..

So far the results have been less than stellar.

I did Rich but Cheap (Stingy) as;

รวย

แต่

ขี้เหนียว

That wasn't too bad, although most Thais will comment on it, I don't think it gets the same results as it would in the US. Perhaps the word ขี้เหนียว has too negative a connotation.

The Black Heart not Good Heart as;

ใจดำ

ไม่

ใจดี

This shirt was a disaster, w/Thais asking Why? Why so serious? Maybe that shoulda been;

ใจร้าย instead of ใจดำ for a more tongue in cheek attitude. The original shirt is now a dust cloth retired from wearing after one foray.

My favorite was; White Skin, NOT Farang, Understand? Which I'd had done as;

ผิวขาว

ไม่ใช่ฝรั่ง

เข้าใจไหม

The print shop changed the "NOT Farang" text I'd brought, saying what they wrote meant "not call", but it still panned completely w/Thais either not reading it, not understanding it or it not making any sense.

As an aside;

I know there have been all too many discussions about the term ฝรั่ง. For me it is something I take as indifferent, disrespectful, borderline derogatory. It is the Thais painting w/too broad a brush or being too lazy to make the distinction between the foreign races here, which in and of itself is foolish seeing as they have a word for every country's people; be it categorized by skin/hair color, size, etc. I know if I referred to Thais as Small Dark Asians (w/a Lao-ish or Burma-ish inflection or connotation), most would be quick to take offense. I choose to feel that way to the term ฝรั่ง, up to me.

Obviously my grasp of the Thai language; it's intricacies, subtleness, inuendos and applications are limited at best. Hopefully they will improve w/time. Thankfully a Thai friend stopped me from making the ever popular American shirt;

กินขี้แล้วก็จุติ

That would have been a slow motion train wreck, I think. Then again, I don't know if you can just string Thai words together and have them make sense, as their sentence/word order is not the same as ภาษาอังกฤษ. The multi-billion baht Thai Humor T-Shirt business for tourists will hafta wait a while, lol.

I do want to thank the many contributors of this forum for their web linkz, posts and conversation.

I will learn this language and eventually be able to communicate w/the teeming masses.

Any good Thai Language t-shirt ideas are always appreciated, lol.

take care na,

tod in Krung Thep

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Hi,

As an aside;

I know there have been all too many discussions about the term ฝรั่ง. For me it is something I take as indifferent, disrespectful, borderline derogatory. It is the Thais painting w/too broad a brush or being too lazy to make the distinction between the foreign races here, which in and of itself is foolish seeing as they have a word for every country's people; be it categorized by skin/hair color, size, etc. I know if I referred to Thais as Small Dark Asians (w/a Lao-ish or Burma-ish inflection or connotation), most would be quick to take offense. I choose to feel that way to the term ฝรั่ง, up to me.

Obviously my grasp of the Thai language; it's intricacies, subtleness, inuendos and applications are limited at best. Hopefully they will improve w/time.

I do want to thank the many contributors of this forum for their web linkz, posts and conversation.

I will learn this language and eventually be able to communicate w/the teeming masses.

Any good Thai Language t-shirt ideas are always appreciated, lol.

take care na,

tod in Krung Thep

Thanks for your post tod. Definitely interesting to hear about the reactions to your T-shirts. Humour is tricky and often gets stuck on the barbed wire of the language barrier, just as you have discovered.

As for 'farang' I agree nobody can tell you what to feel about it - you feel what you feel - I also agree it would be nice if Thai people, like people in general, learned to distinguish a little more.

Anyhow, the word is not meant to be offensive or derogatory when Thais use it, it really IS quite neutral unless used with a qualifying negative description like 'khii nok', 'hua nguu', 'khii niaow' etc.

Any negativity you feel expressed in the word I think stems from the underlying stereotypes and prejudices about Westerners some Thais have - and in my experience, those are a lot fewer and less vitriolic than the complaints of many expats about Thais. Also, Thais in heavily farang-populated areas are more likely to complain about farang (sometimes with good reason). Have you tried getting out of Bangkok to meet Thai people in other places?

Since so many people (including Thais) still misunderstand the ethymology of the word, attributing it to a shortening of Francais - faràngsèet, there is much groaning especially among English speakers who do not want to be associated with the French.

The truth is that the word goes back much further than French colonialism - it was used before the French came to Thailand, and comes from the term 'Frank' which the Arabs used about the Europeans during the Crusades (and this in turn was a loan word from an Old Norse word which referred to the people living in France during viking times [guess we cannot escape the French connection altogether :o]). This word spread with Muslim traders over to this end of the world, and was established before the French arrived here in South East Asia. The Persian equivalent is 'ferrengi'.

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I agree on that ฝรั่ง by itself is neutral.

One more note: For shirts like the ใจดำ one--perhaps it's unclear you're trying to be self-deprecating. Thais might read it and either think it applies to the reader, or think it applies to Thais in general.

That site with the bumper stickers is a good resource. There is plenty of acerbic and ironic humor there. There's lots to be learned about Thai thinking and society by figuring out the jokes. Since you're more likely to see these sayings on tuk-tuks than on Benzes, a lot of them refer to the lifestyle and woes of the lower classes.

Random examples:

กำพร้าเงิน

"Money orphan"

หลบเมีย

"Hiding from my wife!"

เศรษฐีเงินดาวน์

"Down-payment millionaire"

Edited by Rikker
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Hi,

I lurk on these forums a lot, and this one about the Thai Language has been helpful in getting me started down the long perilous, winding road to reading/speaking Thai.

I've been here just over a year; learned a small number of "must know phrases", then slowly started to decipher Thai. I decided to make some T-Shirts which in America would be of the "tongue in cheek" or "acerbic humor" variety........

So far the results have been less than stellar.

The one cultural item that rarely translates well is humor. I have met many Thais who speak most excellent English, but nary a one who can tell me a joke in English that I find funny. And although I speak two other languages reasonably well, I too have had very limited success in telling jokes in those languages. (Ok, let's be honest here, most of us are poor in telling jokes in our native languages.) Sure, I can relate a funny incident and make someone laugh, but joke telling is an entirely different ball game and you are trying to sell Thai jokes on a t-shirt. The only way that is going to work is hire Thais to come up with the jokes, and don't be surprised if you miss the humor.

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