Tag: Thai history

Do you know why Thai names of the months are so loooong?

Do you know why Thai names of the months are so loooong?

As we know that Thailand had used a lunar calendar before the present solar calender. At that time all months were called simply by ordinal numbers. The first month is เดือนอ้าย /deuan-âay/, the second month is เดือนยี่ /deuan-yêe/, the third month is เดือนสาม /deuan-săam/, the forth month is เดือนสี่ /deuan-sèe/ respectively until เดือนสิบสอง /deuan-sìb-sŏrng/ In case you wonder, อ้าย /âay/ and ยี่ /yêe/ can also refer to one and two in order.

Although there are 12 months in total, it is not compatible with the months in Gregorian calendar. Each lunation is approximately 29½ days; therefore, the months alternate between 29 and 30 days. That means a lunar year is only 354 days approximately. That’s why we can’t say that เดือนอ้าย /deuan-âay/ is January.

The lunar calendar was replaced with the current system in 1888. Therefore, new months were created for the solar calendar.

HRH Prince Devavongse Varopakarn, Siamese prince and diplomat during the reign of Rama V and Rama VI, was interested in astronomy and astrology following his father, King Mongkut (Rama IV). He generated new names of the months in solar calendar by following the zodiac.

The twelve astrological signs:

Aries เมษ /mêd/ + อายน  /aa-yon/ เมษายน

/me-săa-yon/

Taurus พฤษภ /préu-sòb/ + อาคม /aa-kom/ พฤษภาคม

/préu-sà-paa-kom/

Gemini มิถุน /mí-tŭn/ + อายน /aa-yon/ มิถุนายน

/mí-tù-naa-yon/

Cancer กรกฎ /gà-ra-gòd/ + อาคม /aa-kom/ กรกฎาคม

/gà-ra-gà-daa-kom/

Leo สิงห /sing-hà/ + อาคม /aa-kom/ สิงหาคม

/sing-hăa-kom/

Virgo กันย /gan/ + อายน /aa-yon/ กันยายน

/gan-yaa-yon/

Libra ตุล /dtun/ + อาคม /aa-kom/ ตุลาคม

/dtù-laa-kom/

Scorpio พิจิก /pí-jìg/

พฤศจิก /préu-sà- jìg/

+ อายน /aa-yon/ พฤศจิกายน

/préu-sà- jì-gaa-yon/

Sagittarius ธนู /ta-noo/ + อาคม /aa-kom/ ธันวาคม

/tan-waa-kom/

Capricorn มกร /má-gà-rá/ + อาคม /aa-kom/ มกราคม

/má-gà-raa-kom/

Aquarius กุมภ์ /gum/ + อาพนธ

/aa-pa-na-ta/

กุมภาพันธ์

/gum-paa-pan/

Pisces มีน /meen/ + อาคม /aa-kom/ มีนาคม

/mee-naa-kom/

Remarks: อายน /aa-yon/, อาคม /aa-kom/ and อาพนธ /aa-pa-na-ta/ means ‘arrival of’ He used 3 different suffixes to differentiate the number of days in each month: 30, 31, and 28 or 29 respectively.

Oh! I almost forget to mention that they are not Thai but Sanskrit compound words. That’s why they are elegant, meaningful and too hard to remember. LOL Luckily, you can also say เดือน /deuan/ + number, such as เดือนห้า /deaun-hâa/ to talk about May. We do understand what you mean even if it is not common practice here.

All in all, the names of each month means ‘an arrival of each zodiac sign‘. Interesting?

Zodiac_CC.svg

Do you know when Thailand changed its new year to the 1st of January?

Do you know when Thailand changed its new year to the 1st of January?

Thais had used a lunar calendar since 1249 (1792 BE) in Sukhothai Kingdom. We counted the first day of the first waning moon (during November to January) as a New Year’s day.

At that time, people followed Shalivahana era or Saka era: มหาศักราช, in order to calculate a year. Shalivahana was a legendary emperor of ancient India, ruling from Pratishathana or Paithan, Maharashtra presently.

Later Thais accepted believes of Brahmins from Hindu. The 1st of the fifth waxing moon became the New Year which was originally consistant with Songkran for Thais (following the lunar calender). That’s why we called Songkran as the Thai New Year presently.

After 1569 (2112 BE) during Ayutthaya Kingdom’s reign, Chulasakarat: จุลศักราช was used officially in Thailand until 1888 (2431 BE); however, the first year of Chulasakarat started in 638 (1181 BE). It is a lunisolar calendar derived from the Burmese calendar.

King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) adopted the Thai solar calendar as the Siamese version of the Gregorian calendar in 1888 as the legal calendar replacing the Thai lunar calendar.

He also decreed a change in vulgar reckoning to the Rattanakosin Era or Rattanakosin Sok: รัตนโกสินทร์ศก. It began year 1 on 6th April 1782 when King Buddhayotfa (Rama I), the foundation of the Chakri Dynasty, found Bangkok as capital.

Before New Year coincided with the date calculated for Songkran, when the Sun transits the constellation of Aries, the first astrological sign in the Zodiac. King Chulalongkorn decreed the first of April to be the New Year’s Day in the following year after adopting the solar calendar.

After using Rattanakosin Sok for 24 years, Buddhist Era (abbreviation BE), พุทธศักราช has been decreed officially in 1913 (2456 BE). What’s more, on 6 September 1940, Prime Minister Plaek Pibulsongkram, announced the 1st of January 1941 (2484 BE) to be the official New Year from now on.

Nowadays, the Common Era New Year’s Day (1 January) and Songkran (13 – 15 April), the Thai traditional New Year are important public holidays in Thailand.

For Thais, we will say สวัสดีปีใหม่ /sà-wàd-dee bpee mài/ to each other. I wish you a prosperous and healthy year!

สวัสดีปีใหม่ค่ะ

sà-wàd-dee bpee mài kà

 

Do you know what สวัสดี /sà-wàd-dēe/ mean?

Do you know what สวัสดี /sà-wàd-dēe/ mean?

sà-wàd-dēe kà

This is the first word that we will greet each other. It might also be the first Thai word that you know but it’s not Thai. Actually, this is a Sanskrit word, created by Phraya Upakitsinlapasan (1879 – 1941) for greeting between students and professors in the faculty of Liberal Arts, Chulalongkorn University when he worked as a professor there. It became official greeting word in 1943 by Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram (1897 – 1964), the Prime Minister of Thailand at that time.

สวัสดี /sà-wàd-dēe/ coming from a prefix สุ /sù/, meaning good, beautiful, easy and a word อสฺติ /àd-sà-dtì/, meaning there is, there are, have. When these two words merged together following the grammar rules, สุ /sù/ became สว /sà-wà/. Plusing อสฺติ /àd-sà-dtì/, สวสฺติ /sà-wàd-dì/ means ‘Wish (you) goodness and virtue!’ Actually, it reminds me of the phrase “May the force be with you!” Ring a bell? Lol

This word originally is short vowel sound for all syllables but Phraya Upakitsinlapasan changed the last syllable into a long sound to make it sounds better.

After that, there were some more greeting words created such as อรุณสวัสดิ์ /à-run-sà-wàd/ for ‘good morning’, ทิวาสวัสดิ์ /tí-waa-sà-wàd/ for ‘good afternoon’, สายัณห์สวัสดิ์ /săa-yan-sà-wàd/ for ‘good evening’ and ราตรีสวัสดิ์ /raa-dtee-sà-wàd/ for ‘good night’. However, these words are not as popular as สวัสดี /sà-wàd-dēe/ which we can use any time during the day. Only อรุณสวัสดิ์ /à-run-sà-wàd/ for ‘good morning’ and ราตรีสวัสดิ์ /raa-dtee-sà-wàd/ for ‘good night’ that people still use until now.

sa-wad-dee ka
May the virtue be with you!

Do you know why we say โมง /moeng/ ทุ่ม /tûm/ and ตี /dtee/ for telling time?

Do you know why we say โมง /moeng/ ทุ่ม /tûm/ and ตี /dtee/ for telling time?

There are 2 different systems to tell time in Thai. The easiest one is the official way. We will use 0 to 24 following by a word นาฬิกา /naa-lí-gaa/. นาฬิกา /naa-lí-gaa/ means clock, watch or o’clock. It’s very simple but nobody uses it in spoken language. I mean, you can talk with people by using this system but please don’t expect anyone else who are Thai to refer to this system when talking about time.

So, how do Thai people tell time in general?

ฆ้องโหม่ง

 

In the ancient time when people didn’t have watches, clocks everywhere like now. A City Hall or a temple was responsible for telling time. During the daytime, they would hit a kong. People thought that its sounds was like ‘moeng’ (โหม่ง) so, they said ‘moeng’

 

 

At night, they changed the instruments. From 7 P.M. until midnight, they hit a drum instead. People heard its sound like ‘dtum’ (ตุ้ม) so they said ‘tum’. After midnight, it was not clear what exactly was the instrument for telling time. In the peaceful time, it might be possible that no one was awake the whole night to tell time. Anyway, they assumed that some kind of metal will be used to hit from 1 A.M. until 5 A.M. That’s why we use the word ตี /dtee/, meaning hit, slap, etc.

Official Time

(24-hour based system)

6-hour based system

(Originally)

6-hour based system

(Nowadays)

1 naa-lí-gaa dtee 1 dtee 1
2 naa-lí-gaa dtee 2 dtee 2
3 naa-lí-gaa dtee 3, 3 yaam dtee 3
4 naa-lí-gaa dtee 4 dtee 4
5 naa-lí-gaa dtee 5 dtee 5
6 naa-lí-gaa dtee 6, yâm-rûng 6 moeng-cháo
7 naa-lí-gaa 1 moeng-cháo 7 moeng-cháo
8 naa-lí-gaa 2 moeng-cháo 8 moeng-cháo
9 naa-lí-gaa 3 moeng-cháo 9 moeng-cháo
10 naa-lí-gaa 4 moeng-cháo 10 moeng
11 naa-lí-gaa 5 moeng-cháo, pen 11 moeng
12 naa-lí-gaa tîang, tîang-wan, yâm-tîang tîang, tîang-wan
13 naa-lí-gaa bàay 1 moeng bàay moeng
14 naa-lí-gaa bàay 2 moeng bàay 2, 2 moeng
15 naa-lí-gaa bàay 3 moeng bàay 3, 3 moeng
16 naa-lí-gaa bàay 4 moeng bàay 4 (moeng), 4 moeng-yen
17 naa-lí-gaa bàay 5 moeng 5 moeng-yen
18 naa-lí-gaa 6 moeng-yen, yâm-kâm 6 moeng-yen
19 naa-lí-gaa 1 dtûm 1 dtûm
20 naa-lí-gaa 2 dtûm 2 dtûm
21 naa-lí-gaa 3 dtûm, yaam 1 3 dtûm
22 naa-lí-gaa 4 dtûm 4 dtûm
23 naa-lí-gaa 5 dtûm 5 dtûm
24 naa-lí-gaa, 0 naa-lí-gaa tîang-keun, 6 dtûm, 2 yaam tîang-keun
Do you know ขนมจีน /kà-nŏm-jeen/ didn’t come from China?

Do you know ขนมจีน /kà-nŏm-jeen/ didn’t come from China?

ขนมจีน /kà-nŏm-jeen/ is one kind of noodles, made from rice flour, in Thailand. In the northern part, it is called ‘ขนมเส้น’ /kà-nŏm-sên/. Esan people call it ‘ข้าวปุ้น’ /kâaw-bpûn/ and it is known as ‘โหน้มจีน’ /nóm-jeen/ in the southern part.

ขนมจีน /kà-nŏm-jee/ has a ridiculous name because it’s totally not ขนม /kà-nŏm/ in Thai people’s eyes and it’s not from China if you must know.

What is ขนม /kà-nŏm/?

If you look it up, you will see meanings such as sweets, dessert, candy, etc. Actually, the definition of ขนม /kà-nŏm/ is a lot wider than that. We count snacks, such as potato chips, French fried, biscuits, dried fruits, nuts & seeds, etc. as ขนม /kà-nŏm/. With this range, ขนม /kà-nŏm/ can be sweet, sour, salty, even spicy. Thai people especially girls love having it any time.

When a student asks me what ขนม /kà-nŏm/ is, I always answer simply “It’s something that you enjoy eating. Normally it’s not healthy. It can’t really make your stomach full but it tastes soooooo good!” LOL

If ขนมจีน /kà-nŏm-jee/ didn’t come from China, where was it from?

It was originally Mon food from Burma. The word ‘ขนมจีน’ /kà-nŏm-jeen/ was from ‘ขฺนํจินฺ’, คะนอมจีน /ká-nom-jeen/,  ‘คะนอม’/ká-nom/ means noodles and  ‘จีน’/jeen/ means be cooked.

Thai people love having ขนมจีน /kà-nŏm-jee/ with various soup or curry. They like to eat fresh vegetables together with it. Some people like me also love having it with ส้มตำ /sôm-dtam/, aka Thai green papaya salad.

noodle-2402592_960_720

Surprisingly, ขนมจีน /kà-nŏm-jee/ provides less calories than other rice noodles and glass noodles. So, let’s eat ขนมจีน /kà-nŏm-jee/ if you are on a diat. LOL

Do you know why we have ฃ and ฅ?

Do you know why we have ฃ and ฅ?

If you’d like to learn how to read and write Thai, normally you will start with alphabets, right?

In Thai language, there are 44 consonant letters. It’s funny because there are 2 characters which we don’t use anymore, but we still count them as part of our alphabets. Any ideas?

Right, I’m talking about ฃ and ฅ.

So, when did ฃ and ฅ be created and for what reason?

For the first question, we have got evidence from the King Ramkhamhaeng Insription, aka Ram Khamhaeng Stele (composed in 1292), that we did have these two letters starting from the beginning.

Referring to the inscription, you could find some examples of ฃ and ฅ, such as ฃึ้น, ฃุน, ฃาม, ฅำ, ฅู้ม, ฅวาม etc. and these two still be used until Rattanakosin Era (1782 – present).

ฃ and ฅ were left from the writing system firstly when the first Thai typewriter was developed by Edwin Hunter McFarland in 1892. Why? No space for all letters!

Although these two were still be used popularly in King Vajiravudh’s reign (1910 – 1925), their usage became less and less after that until there were only one word of each left: เฃตร and ฅอ.

When Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram, locally known as Chomphon Por; contemporarily known as Phibun in the West, served as the Prime Minister of Thailand (1948 – 1957), many consonant letters and vowels were eliminated from the writing system. Of course, ฃ and ฅ were included.

The others consonants have resumed their usage after Chomphon Por’s period of time but not these two consonants.

So, we are back to the second question. If they were not that important why did we have them?

From many of Thai specialists’ assumptions, they do believe that at the beginning, ฃ and ฅ must represent different sounds from ข and ค respectively but nobody really knows which sounds exactly.

Do you know all the Thai consonants which represent /k/ sound?

Do you know where Thai proverb: งู ๆ ปลา ๆ /ngōo-ngōo bplāa-bplāa/ is from?

Do you know where Thai proverb: งู ๆ ปลา ๆ /ngōo-ngōo bplāa-bplāa/ is from?

I believe that you have heard this proverb before. Many of you might even try to say it yourselves, right? When a foreigner would like to explain how good his/her Thai is, it’s pretty common to hear “พูดภาษาไทยงู ๆ ปลา ๆ” /pôod paa-săa Thai ngōo-ngōo bplāa-bplāa/

งู /ngōo/ means snake and ปลา /bplāa/ means fish. It’s quite strange to hear people say “snake snake fish fish” to refer to ‘not well or unskillfully’

Actually, you might notice that there are so many expressions about fish in Thai language, such as กินข้าวกินปลา /gīn kâaw gīn bplāa/, ในน้ำมีปลา ในนามีข้าว /nāi nám mēe bplāa  nāi nāa mēe kâaw/, and ข้าวปลาอาหาร /kâaw bplāa āa-hăan/. It implies that fish and rice have been our main food since King Ram Khamhaeng’s reign (c. 1237/1247 – 1298).

Among many kinds of fresh-water fish, the Asian swamp eels are easily found everywhere in Thailand. Thai people have known and eaten them since the ancient time. The famous dishes are “ต้มปลาไหล” /dtôm bplāa-lăi/ or commonly called “ต้มเปรต” /dtôm bprèd/, spicy eel soup, and ผัดเผ็ดปลาไหล /pàd pèd bplāa-lăi/, spicy stir-fried eel.

The Asian swamp eels, also known as the rice-field eels or the swamp eels are native to Asia. They have elongated, snake-like bodies with tapering tails and blunt snouts. They don’t appear to have any fins. Their scaleless skins are darker green or brown on the top. They can grow to a length of three feet long and weigh up to one pound. They are sometimes mistaken for snakes.

Back to the topic, “งู ๆ ปลา ๆ” /ngōo-ngōo bplāa-bplāa/ is assumed that it is from going fishing in a canal or a rice field. If you are not experienced, you might not see the differences between swamp eels and snakes. That’s why, we call “งู ๆ ปลา ๆ” /ngōo-ngōo bplāa-bplāa/.