Friday, May 16, 2014

ชื่อตัว Thai first names

Thai people of previous centuries mostly had mono-syllabic (first) names, except for the royalty, of course. This chart below depicting pictures of old monks, all passed-away, with their names clearly show that fact.

The exemplified picture taken from the net (and there are other similar versions) shows how Thais make a pun, using famously revered monks' names and their faces as words of blessing.

(First row: Be, Rich, Increase, Heap)
(Second row: Stay, Good, Having (Possess), Happy)
(Third row: Silver, Fresh, (silver+fresh constituted a new word to mean cash), Ring, Gold-Coming)

I hope anyone can make sense of the blessing message and its lightly funny aspect.

Before King Rama VI enacted the surname law around a century ago, Thai people did not have family names, but often they used description to distinguish people of identical name from each other, say Mr. A of B village, etc. This is also true for people of northern India during the Buddha's time, as written in the Tipitaka, but you have to know Pali to understand the descriptive meaning, like Mr. X the fatty one, Mrs. Y the mother of Mr. X, etc.

Thai people of my generation, in their fifties or older, have longer first names, but their names don't sound too sophisticated. However, people of newer generation, now in their twenties or younger have a another set of newly minted first names with sophisticated spelling and meanings, often multi-syllabic. We can now guess the age of Thai people from their first names alone without need to see their faces almost with certainty.

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