Archive for the 'Translation' Category


Nang Ua & Thao Khulu

While doing translations for the orchid exhibition of Royal Flora Rachaphruek 2011, I came across this intriguing story.

There is an old folktale from the Isaan region of Thailand, a tragedy about star-crossed lovers, Prince Khulu of Kali and a girl named Ua from Puttarach. They fell in love, but her mother had promised her hand in marriage to another man. Ua refused and hung herself rather than marry another man. Heartbroken, Prince Khulu stabbed himself to death. In the end, their souls were reunited in heaven. It is said that a white blossom grew where Ua killed herself, while a yellow flower appeared where Prince Khulu died.

Local folks believed that each flower was imbued with their spirit, so they were not supposed to be grown at home. They also say that wherever a “Nang Ua” orchid grows that a “Khulu” orchid can be found nearby. This is thus the origin of a local Isaan adage which translates, “Wherever you see Khulu, you will find Nang Ua.”

I could not find much about this legend on Google, but I wonder how old the story is. It bears striking resemblance to Shakespeare’s tale of star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet, but it seems very possible that this version originated independent of Western influence (though Romeo and Juliet first appeared at the end of the 16th century, so it may well have morphed telephone game-style along ancient trade routes). Does this mean that young doomed love is a universal concept?

In case you are wondering what the flowers in question look like:

Thao Khulu Orchid

Nang Ua Orchid


Inigio in Thai

A friend from college posted the following on Twitter today:

From: @rumpfshaker
Sent: Jan 8, 2011 1:17p

A friend has decided to learn “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” in as many languages as possible. #awesome

Dear Sarah,

I’m going to do my best to explain how your friend can say this iconic quote from The Princess Bride in Thai.

The main thing obstacle with spoken Thai is that applying the correct tone to each syllable is crucial in conveying the correct meaning. It would be much easier if your friend could read Thai, obviously, but I will do my best to help using non-traditional explanations

(Note: If you are a Thai language geek like @thai101 or @Thai_Talk, feel free to make better suggestions in the comments below.)

First thing Sarah, we’ll give an approximate transliteration of the quote:

Poem chuehr Inigo Montoya. Coon kah paw poem, tree-em tua tie.

Poem (me, formal male) is actually one syllable (poe ending with an m consonant, not po-em) and the tone should rise making the word sound like a 1-word question (poem?). It is pronounced the exact same for both instances in the quote.

Chuehr (or name) is a bit difficult, because there is not really an English equivalent for the sound, but it sounds like chew with an ‘r’ sound instead of a ‘w’. As for the tone, think of how it falls when you use Hmm (as in “Hmm, I wonder who let the dogs out?”), then apply that to chuehr.

Coon (normally spelled in English as khun) is the formal Thai for “you” and has no tone, so don’t need to go high or low, but keep the “oo” short. So it’s not like “Cooon” but sounds a bit clipped.

“Kah” (meaning ‘kill’) has the same falling tone as with “poem” which we saw earlier. Think of how someone with a heavy Boston accent says “car” and that’s exactly it.

“Paw” (father) is pronounced as it sounds, also with the falling tone.

“Tree-em tua tie” (prepare to die) is pronounced with a middle tone for each syllable, but the tricky part is all the t’s do not sound like t does in English. In linguistics terms, these t’s are unaspirated, so when you say these three words, try not to pronounce the t’s with any little puffs of air, or like hard d’s. Think of how Tony Montana from Scarface says “That’s (or dats)” like in “Dats okay, another Quaalude she love me in the mornin.”

Hope this helps!


Vintage Erotica: The Uncle’s Slipper

This evening, Jirayut Wattanasin, frontman for legendary Thai rock band Nuvo, shared a multi-part tale on his Twitter account (@khunjirayut)which had his thousands of followers glued to their computer screen. With his permission, I have translated it for the international audience to enjoy. We hope you do, as I’m sure he has many more stories to tell.


Tonight’s “Vintage Erotica” is suitable only for mature audiences. Okay, you don’t have to be mature, but you should be at least 18+.

In 1992, this was the heyday of Bangkok nightlife. Whether it was discotheques, clubs, pubs, or bars, no one was running under any restrictive laws or social order campaigns.

The police didn’t know how to stop the flow of recreational drugs coming into Thailand, and our story takes place in one notorious little pub in Silom Soi 4 called “Milk Bar.”

In that area, there were other establishments like Bar Rome which made Silom Soi 4 the party mecca back in the day. But Milk Bar was where you found all the celebrities, as all the good-looking actors and hot models would congregate here to drink, dance, and hook up.

A skinny, scruffy old man in his 50’s we called Uncle Tong was seen frequently walking up and down the street back then. People assumed he was a local shop owner or something of that order, but no one knew for sure who he was nor exactly what he was doing there every night.

One evening, one of these lovely fashion models held her birthday party at Milk Bar. And many of her beautiful model friends came to join the festivities, all dressed super sexy.

Now Milk Bar was very narrow and small, merely the size of one shophouse, and only had one small lavatory in the back for both men and women. Back then it was so free, you could smoke cigarettes inside or do whatever you wanted, and that bathroom was the site of many an illicit activity.

Sometimes three guys would go in together, or perhaps a guy and a girl, staggering out in a cloud of smoke…or bursting out with eyes wide as saucers. (Perhaps from some kind of scientific endeavor? Or maybe a sporting venture? I’ll leave it to your imagination.)

Since the bathroom was tiny and filthy, when it was a guy and a girl in there, they must have been perched on the sink or hugging the toilet in all manner of loving acrobatics.

The old Uncle was walking back and forth that evening as usual, no doubt checking out the young ladies, similar to an old fighter shadow boxing, nostalgically remembering his glory days in the ring.

Some of us theorized he was saving up mental pictures to pleasure himself to later that night, for what else can a guy in his fifties hope for?

On that evening Milk Bar was packed with hot models. Though Uncle had never actually been inside before, he decided to take the bold chance of coming in. The owner, a chubby fellow named Polla, was reluctant to make him leave, as the pub was packed and he didn’t want to cause a scene.

Uncle took a seat at the corner of the bar near the bathroom, scanning the room intently like an inspector or a landlord, and so nobody dared bother him. He took visual measurements of every model in the room, greedily engorging himself on the plentiful eye candy.

All of the sudden, he got up and marched towards the bathroom. Three guys (eyes as wide as watermelons) were just coming out as Uncle walked in, locking the door behind him.

He had cut the queue in front of a young female model waiting to use the bathroom. She figured it was one guy, so if he had to urinate she wouldn’t have to wait more than 3 minutes…or maybe 7-8 minutes at most if he had to do the other thing.

After a few minutes, she turned back to the bathroom thinking it was now free. She went to turn the doorknob, when she heard the old man say with a heavy Chinese accent, “Mee kong [somebody is in here].” Thinking nothing of it, the girl turned back to talk to her friend.

A couple minutes later, she tried the door once more, and again Uncle said, “Mee kong.” Finally, the girl couldn’t take it anymore and started banging on the door.

“How long are you going to be, old man?” she yelled, “I have to peeeeee!” The Uncle recognized from her voice that she was the beautiful young thing with a banging body. Hearing this famous model whining “I have to peeeee!” gave the old codger extra motivation to finish himself off, and soon he was erupting like a volcano of lust. And as he was reaching his climax, he moaned “Mee kong! Mee kong! Meeeeeee Koooooonnnnngggg!!!”

Another couple minutes passed. The old man finally emerged from the lavatory and walked straight out of the pub. The model was overjoyed that she would finally get to use the toilet.

As she stepped into the cramped bathroom, she slipped and almost toppled over. The bathroom floor was covered in…something slippery.


On behalf of the Vintage Erotica team, thank you for following along. You can catch us again at the Insomnia Theater. This tittilating tale was brought to you by Jo New View a.k.a Jo-Nuvo.