Thai nicknames

What can I say about Thai nicknames? To our parents, a nickname does not seem to be as important as a real name. I think that is one of the reasons why many Thai parents pick anything to refer to their kids as. Khun Sam wrote about this on her blog.

Some Thai parents do not seem to be very bothered about calling their kids whatever they like. Take my childhood friends, for example, four siblings were given their nicknames after various creatures: แมว(a cat), กระต่าย(a rabbit), ปู(a crab) and the youngest one was named “หมู” which means a pig. Some of my friends’ nicknames were chosen by their parents according to what their folks believed their kids would grow up to be, in terms of figure and appearance. A friend of mine whose name is อ้วน(fat) turned out to be not quite as paunchy as his parents expected. Another friend, ขาว(white), is not as pearly as her parents had hoped for. Instead, she has a very dark skin. Given that their informal names do not match what they look like, they do not mind being called by their given names. That is our parents for you. Many of them will go to a lot of trouble to seek a perfect real name which will endow good luck on their baby boy or girl. But when it comes down to nicknames, they simply don’t mind.



Filed under Thailand, Thai_People

11 responses to “Thai nicknames

  1. Sam

    Oh, I know. My mom’s name is actually “pig” and my dad’s “chicken.” You would think my nickname would be something along the line of meat products, right, instead of cotton candy. But that’s ok.

    First name really means a lot to parents. Mine is love. I remember looking through my old baby album and found pieces of paper with names on them. I realized they were potential names my parents picked out from the naming guide, and they were all deliberately chosen. The meanings were all very pretty.

    You know how in Thailand, sometimes parents actually pick the names that indicate a characteristic of a child. Like, a child who’s born with dark skin might be called “Dam” (black). A child born chubby might be called “Auan” (fat). In the U.S., this would be considered racist and offensive. That’s the thing I find so interesting about the naming culture.

    By the way, one of my friends’ nickname is “Progress” (ก้าวหน้า). Isn’t that fun?

    • I agree with everything you said. First name is very important. My parents had to be very choosy about their children’s names. They picked my first name which means: “prosper; grow; develop; flourish; wax; thrive; progress”. I heard that some Thai parents even asked Buddhist monks to name their kids for them for good luck.

      Giving their kids’ nicknames according to their physical characteristics is a bit insensitive, but some Thai parents do that anyway. I used to ask my friend whose nickname is “Auan” (fat) how he felt about being called “fat” all the time. He said that he did not mind as long as people did not compare him with an elephant. He was teased all the time at school, but that was just the way things were then. We just liked to rib each other. Many foreigners will certainly find it offensive to hear Thais calling each other “black or white”. Yet there are people whose nicknames are chosen by their parents in accordance with their colour preference e.g. my female cousin’s nickname is “Dang” (red). I think this topic, culturally speaking, reflects a lot about how we are. We are not over obsessed with political correctness like other nations.

  2. Pingback: LOKATAS: Creating a New Worldview » Blog Archive » Hello, My Name is Cotton Candy

  3. yodmanudying

    เราว่าคนไทยตั้งชื่อเล่นกันง่ายมากกก บางครั้งก็ง่ายเกินไป อย่างเราเนี่ย เราไม่ค่อยชอบชื่อ ‘หญิง’ เท่าไหร่เลย ฮือๆ (อยากมีชื่อเล่นที่น่าสนใจกว่านี้อ่ะ) มีรุ่นน้องคนนึงชื่อว่าบุ๊ค (book) พอฝรั่งได้ยินก็จะขำ จริงๆแล้วคนไทยเนี่ย เห็นอะไรก็เอามาเรียกเป็นชื่อลูกได้หมดเลยนะคะ ^_^

    แต่พอมาเด็กยุคนี้ พ่อแม่มักจะเบื่อ แล้วก็ตั้งชื่อลูกแหวกแนวออกไปมากเลย ซึ่งเราว่าสนุกดีอ่ะค่ะ เช่น น้องทิฟฟานี่ ท้องไททั่น อะไรแบบนี้ ถ้าเทียบกับฝรั่งแล้ว เค้าแทบไม่มีการตั้งชื่อแบบแหวกแนวกันเลย เห็นตั้งกันแบบเก่าๆซ้ำๆเป็นส่วนใหญ่

    ของไทยเราง่ายกว่า และสนุกกว่า ^_^

    • Sam

      I’m not so sure how I feel about the over-the-top English names parents give their kids these days. I’m pretty much on the fence. First of, English names aren’t Thai names. I mean, why can’t people pick cool Thai words for Thai names instead of using English words—just for the sake of coolness.
      But I also think that it doesn’t matter what words parents pick for names because, in the end, it reflects Thai naming culture like we have talked about.

  4. I’m new(ish) to learning about Thai nics. I’ve known about them from the 90’s (pre moving to Thailand) but other than noting them as curiosity, until recently I didn’t delve too much. But when Rikker wrote a post about Thai names on WLT, I went in search of other resources.

    And looking at it, Thai nics are not that much different from the west, where we are more likely to get a nic from friends rather than our parents. And similar to Thailand, some of the nics are not that attractive.

    For instance… in the wee hours, after tripping over a purple can of paint while designing a set for a local theatre troupe, for years I was called Toe Jam.

    (‘toe jam’ is slang for that nasty stuff that gets stuck between the feet of those who wear socks and don’t bath. yuk.)

    Another difference in the west? We can always move away from a bad nic.


  5. ChuckWow

    Interesting – my experience has been the complete opposite.

    On advice from Buddha my wife has changed her name three times since I have known her – yet she still uses the nickname her mother gave her as a child.

  6. The concept of a nickname is quite unique in Thailand, everyone has a formal one, which has the potential for very well chosen and meaningful aliases. However, sadly, most I’ve encountered are not so well selected.

    Many are very popular, a shame when a nickname can be personalised and individual, or just strange. Take for example Santa, Gun, Can, Cell (as in cellphone), Website, Balloon & others.

    For my son my wife chose platong / ปลาทอง (meaning goldfish) because she felt like she had a little fish in her when she was pregnant. Pla / ปลา (fish) is popular for girls so many find the nickname to be a little effeminate but it is certainly quite unique & I’m sure it can be shorten (perhaps ทอง) if my son prefers but at least he will know his parents (well, Mum) used some originality for him.

  7. Oh, i forgot the worst one of all – Sea (as in Seafood) for our neighbour’s kid. Think this typifies the population trend of parents using English words as nicknames no matter how bizarre they may sound.

  8. Ko

    แวะมาทักทายครับ หลังจากหายไปจากเน็ตนานพอสมควร 🙂

    วันก่อนเคยคุยกับฝรั่งเรื่องชื่อเล่นของคนไทยเหมือนกัน สำหรับคนที่ไม่ค่อยรู้จักเมืองไทย หรือคนไทยมากนัก เขาก็จะรู้สึกแปลกพอสมควร ยิ่งพอรู้ว่าคนไทยสามารถตั้งชื่อเล่น โดยใช้คำต่างๆ ได้ ไม่ว่าจะเป็น คน สัตว์ สิ่งของ ความรู้สึก ความภูมิใจ ฯลฯ เขายิ่งงงเข้าไปใหญ่ ^_^

    จะว่าไปกลายเป็นว่าสำหรับเราแล้ว การตั้งชื่อคนเป็นเรื่องสำคัญอีกเรื่องหนึ่งเลยล่ะ ใครตั้งชื่อให้เด็กไม่ถูกจริตคนอื่นเนี้ย จะกลายเป็นปมด้อยของเด็กไปเลย..

    แต่จะว่าไปก็สนุกน่า กลายเป็นอีกความท้าทายอีกอย่างหนึ่งของพ่อแม่ ^^

  9. ชื่อนั้นสำคัญไฉน ตั้งมาก้เรียกไปให้เข้าใจกัน ชื่อเป็นตัวแทนของ คน สัตว์ สิ่ง ของน่ะนะ

    oneditorial นี้เข้าใจคนไทยดีนะครับ

    ขอบคุณที่แวะไปที่บล็อกผมเสมอ ๆ ครับ

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