9 Thai Phrases We Need in English

Key:

  • Arrows show tone e.g. if the sound goes up or down + how much and where. (They’re placed and lengthened purposefully!).
  • Short horizontal line, means it's a short sound.
  • ~~ over the r’s indicates that you should try to roll your r’s and how much.
  • The consonants squished together are supposed to be pronounced, but mooshed together to sound like the actual Thai consonant.
  • The Thai language is tonal and expressively “sing song.” You don’t need to have the emotion; you just gotta sing it.

 

1.  Lol

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This exists in English—it’s just the Thai way of saying “hahaha” when texting. In Thai, the number five is pronounced “ha!” (elevation in tone and all). So instead of writing out “hahaha”, we would just say “555.” If something is really funny, you add a plus sign, indicating that you're laughing more… indefinitely—the other person should understand how funny they actually are. 


 

2.  Taste

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Adjective used to describe the overload of flavor in a way that’s pretty undesirable. Perhaps derived from the word “Italian” referring to the tired feeling your tongue gets when you’ve eaten something oily or cheesy for 4+ meals in a row. The term can, however, be used for the overload of any kind of flavor.


 

3.  Consideration

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This adverb denotes that you went out of your way to do something in consideration for someone else without them having told you to do so. It also implies that their action deserves some recognition/reciprocation. Best used against an ungrateful person to make them re-examine things and consider the amount of effort you put in so that they’ll just say “thanks.”

Example

My sister: (she’s serving me food) Here’s all the stalks from the watercress.

Me: Ugh… I don’t really like  the stalks.

My sister: Yes, you do also I oo sah separate it and save it just for you.

Me: Can I have the leaves too?

My sister: No! I oo sah give you what you like!

Me: It’s not what I like…

My sister: Don’t care.


 

4.  Annoying

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This slang literally translates to “irritating [my] foot”, the foot being the lowliest part of the human body in Thai culture. This adjective is used to describe someone who is annoying in a pesky way. It’s not necessarily meant to be mean, but does demean the other person just a little. The tone of voice and/or intent can have a cutesy feel similar how you might appreciate a little brother bothering you.

Example

My sister’s friend, Teddy, wanted to get a gift for his new girlfriend. I offered some like serious-ish ideas, but he was like no, I want it to be a little guan dtheen. So I was like, why don’t you get a set of Monday-Sunday undies for her and print a photo of your face with an obnoxious expression of each on at the crotch.


 

5.  Affront

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This verb/noun is similar to the word “affront.” It’s an act of passive defiance straight to the man’s face. The affront, instead of being the opposite of what is offensive, is demonstrated by a gratuitous adherence to the rule. It’s a little confusing, but subtly super offensive because it undermines the position of authority and says that their basis is pointless/silly as fuck.


 

6.  Sufficiency

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This adjective describes a philosophy intended to be implemented on a grand and personal scale. The late king of Thailand, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, is credited with its coining from a phrase that had already existed if the syllables are reversed. Piang paw means enough, but denotes scarcity, while paw piang conveys enough with beautiful and satisfactory simplicity. The term applies to everyday life, but also the developmental approach to achieving a sufficient economy.


 

7.  Old-fashioned

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This adjective is a combines outdated and unfashionable, but what’s great about it is that you can say it to your mom without hurting her feelings (too much). Although the word implies that someone else’s taste is tired and kind of bad, it’s not aggressive and actually somewhat considerate. It’s not your fault you’re a little stuck in the past. Best used prior to the purchase of something otherwise you might get an oo sah counter-attack.


 

8.  Miss you!

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This just means “I miss you,” but I think it’s quite lovely, because it literally translates to “I think of you.” The combination of words also conveys a particular emotional level of yearning and well-wishing. It can also be said in a cutesy way, which gets rid of the heaviness of the phrase. I think the way different languages say “I miss you” is very interesting. The phrase in French literally translates to “you are missing from me.” The English option now feels a little half-assed and whiney.


 

9.  Dead Skin

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Although this noun is rarely used and even a little obscure, there isn’t really an English equivalent. Literally translating to “who’s shit?!”, this is the name for the dead skin that you scrub off your body. Let’s say you put on a lot of sunscreen and spend a good day in the sun, when you rub it all off and the residue rolls up into mini ball of shit... it's kind of like someone took a small poop all over you. Pretty nasty, but since the word sounds cute, it's not offensive.

 

 


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wow khoman

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  • about

    Wow Khoman, 24, born in Bangkok, Thailand. She has spent her life between her home country and the U.S., where she graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 2015 with a BFA in Apparel Design.

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