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  1. #1
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    Thai Idioms, Metaphors & Similes etc..

    Here are a couple of thai idiomatic expressions and/or metaphors you guys may (or may not) get mileage outta;

    Now I'm sure after reading these you can see that the types of phrases I'm learning may not be everyone's cup 'o tea.

    Still the Thai Language sub-forum on here has been quiet lately so I thought I'd spice it up some;

    (NOTE: the phonetics I've included are from Benjawan Becker's books on learning Thai)

    กำขี้ดีกว่ากำตด - gam kîi dii gwàa gam dtòt - a handful of shit is better than a handful of fart (something is better than nothing)

    เกาะชายกระโปรง - gɔ̀ chaai grà bproong - cling to the hem your wife's skirt (for protection, money, face, etc)

    หน้าเหมือนเมีย - nâa mʉ̌an mia - face like your wife's (a very bad slur to a guy)

    ไม่มีน้ำยา -mâi mii nám yaa- don't have the juice/balls to do something (another slur)

    ขาวเหมือนปุยฝ้าย - kǎao mʉ̌an bpui-fâai white as a cotton fluff

    ขาวยังกะหยวก - kǎao yang-gà yùak - white as the pith of a banana stalk

    ดำยังกะดินปืน - dam yang-gà din-bpʉʉn - black as gunpowder

    ดำเหมือนกา - dam mʉ̌an gaa - black as a crow

    ดำเหมือนถ่าน - dam mʉ̌an tàan - black as coal

    ตู้ทองเคลื่อนที่ - dtûu tɔɔng klʉ̂an tîi - moveable gold display cabinet (a woman who wears her wealth in gold for all to see)

    ถ่านไฟเก่า - tàan fai gào - coal from an old fire (ex-g/f who you may yet rekindle a flame with)

    กุหลาบริมทาง - gù-làap rim taang - a rose on the edge of the path (prostitute)

    ไก่หลง - gài lǒng - lost chicken (prostitute wandering up and down the street)

    จับไก่หลง - jàp gài lǒng - catch a lost chicken (go out to pick up a whore).

    The above phrase is a great answer to the often asked question; ไปไหน - bpai nǎi (Where are you going?); ไปจับไก่หลง - bpai jàp gài lǒng! Pretty much shuts up the nosiest thaiz!

    มะพร้าวงามกระรอกเจาะ - má práao ngaam grà rɔ̂ɔk jɔ̀ - a beautiful coconut which squirrels want to pierce/bore into - a pretty gurl which guys want to fuck

    ก้นแบน - gôn bɛɛn - flat ass

    ก้นงอน - gôn ngɔɔn - a curved ass

    ขาตะเกียบ - kǎa dtà-gìap - chopstick legs (skinny legs)

    ขาเรียว - kǎa riao - tapering legs (good legs)

    น่องทอง - nɔ̂ɔng tɔɔng - golden legs (shapely legs)

    นมยังกะไข่ดาว - nom yang-gà kài daao - breasts like two fried eggs (flat chested)

    แตงสองใบ - dtɛɛng sɔ̌ɔng bai - two melons - nice breasts

    เข้าประตูหลัง - kâo bprà dtuu lǎng - enter via the back door (anal sex)

    นกในกรงทอง - nók nai grong tɔɔng - bird in a golden cage (usually about women who get everything they've always dreamed of, in exchange for their freedom)

    นกกระจอกไม่ทันกินน้ำ -nók grà-jɔ̀ɔk mâi tan gin náam - so fast the sparrow didn't even get to drink water (something that finishes way faster than expected)

    ล้มปากอ่าว -lóm bpàak àao - the boat capsized at the mouth of the river (premature ejaculation)

    นักเล่นว่าวมื่อโปร - nák lên wâao mʉʉ bproo - professional kite flyer (flying the kite is a idiom for male masturbation - this term means you're a pro at it!)

    ตลาดหน้าคุก - dtà-làat nâa kúk - a market in front of the jail (sells everything really expensive)

    แพงหูฉี่ - pɛɛng hǔu chìi - ear sizzlingly expensive. BTW: yes ฉี่ is the colloquial word for urinate, (but it's an onomatopoeic word for the sound urine makes hitting the ground)

    ข้าวยากหมากแพง -kâao yâak màak pɛɛng - rice is tough to grow, betel nut is expensive (hard times)

    Anyway, those were just a few to kick things off. I've found that most thai idioms have an english equivalent.

    This leads me to believe idioms are conditions of humanity. People the world over experience the same things; once you take into account culture, geography and religion, they pretty much mean the same thingz.

    Good Luck
    Tod Daniels
    "Whoever said `Money can`t buy you love or joy` obviously was not making enough money." <- quote by Gene $immon$ of the rock group KISS

  2. #2
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    This leads me to believe idioms are conditions of humanity. People the world over experience the same things; once you take into account culture, geography and religion, they pretty much mean the same thingz.
    Confucius say ....

    Same in Spanish, nothing new. The difference is the repetition of the base theme. Here it's more about whores and mothers.

  3. #3
    Thailand Expat Bobcock's Avatar
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    I read the thread title as Thai Idiots......

    There's a fair few there that will get you into a fight......

  4. #4
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    ^
    hen duay

  5. #5
    splendid and tremendous
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bettyboo
    the coup
    Arai ja gert gor hai mun gert.

    Haven't spoken Thai in two months; still straight mackin' homes.

  6. #6
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    One of the Thai idioms that initially did not make sense to me and now it does is the following.

    Mai ben sopolat.

    In other words that is not a pineapple. This expression is used when something does not make any sense.

  7. #7
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    somtamslap I'd say อะไรจะเกิดก็ให้มันเกิด -àrai jà gə̀ət gɔ̂ɔ hâi man gə̀ət - is "What ever's gonna happen, well, let it happen". (It's also the name of a thai song).

    There are a few I listed that are "fightin' words" especially; "face like your wife" or a "skirt hem clinger", but the rest are just observations which can be said about people walking by when you're sitting with a group of thaiz.

    Here's one i just came across; ไม่ควรขายหนังหมีก่อนที่จะฆ่าหมีได้ -mâi kuan kǎai nǎng mǐi gɔ̀ɔn tîi jà kâa mǐi dâi - "you shouldn't sell the bear skin until you've killed the bear", sort of like don't count your chickens before they hatch..

    Another good one is อมพระมาพูดก็ไม่เชื่อ - om prá maa pûut gɔ̂ɔ mâi chʉ̂a - "if you were sucking on a buddhist medalion I wouldn't believe what you said". You can change it up some to make it harder core with อมวัดมาพูดก็ไม่เชื่อ - om wát maa pûut gɔ̂ɔ mâi chʉ̂a - even if you were sucking on an entire temple I wouldn't believe you!

    (BTW: that's a famous thai song too, and has the idiom หน้าเนื้อใจเสือ - nâa nʉ́a jai sʉ̌a "face like a timid deer heart/mind like a tiger").

    One of my best thai friends is from Yasothon province. He's dark as coal and when I met his wife, she was white as the driven snow. After we'd left and were drinkin' Soi side I asked "Why did an angel like that marry a temple dog like you?" นางฟ้ากับหมาวัด - naang fáa gàp mǎa wát. I thought he was going to choke to death on his beer laughing.

    The reverse of that is if a poor girl marries someone with money she's a "mouse that fell into a tank of milled rice" หนูตกถังข้าวสาร -nǔu dtòk tǎng kâao-sǎan

    Personally, I stay away from cursing outright directly at people or calling them out. My motto here especially when speaking thai to thaiz is NEVER dig a hole for myself so deep I can't climb back outta it with my language skills.

    That's why I always weigh in so heavily and so negatively on those "let's learn to swear in thai" threads. Most people can't string 5 thai words together coherently let alone dig themselves back out of a situation which might occur if they cursed at the wrong thai.

    It's my experience, that these people can be pushed pretty darned far, especially so by foreigners as we have far more lee-way than other thaiz. However most of the time we don't know where "the line in the sand is". Once you push a thai across that line they're as likely to go "spider monkey on your ass" tryin' to maim or kill you as they are to laugh it off, lighten up and keep drinking their beer.

    I can't even remember the times I've asked a thai if they were "pretending to be stupid or really stupid" when they gave me a half assed answer to some question แกล้งโง่รึโง่จริง ๆ? - glɛ̂ɛng ngôo rʉ́ ngôo jing jing. Every time I've said that they've always laughed because they knew I'd caught them giving a b/s answer.

    It's a delicate balancing act, being sarcastic enough with thaiz so that they know not to try to take the piss but not being too hard core that they wanna kill me.

    Okay, here's one more, when someone asks how are you, you can answer them with ดินยังไม่กลบหน้า - din yang mâi glòp nâa - dirt ain't covering my face yet!

    As for the ไม่เป็นสับปะรด for not make sense nowadays thaiz say ไม่เมคเซ้นส์ - "mâi make sense"
    Last edited by toddaniels; 30-05-2014 at 06:06 PM.

  8. #8
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    Interesting stuff, I'm gonna memorise a few of them , just got to remember to stop patting them on the head to, thems fighting words

  9. #9
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    Podgyman say (excuse trance litter asian)

    Shin aid Oak Honour =my lad's a diamond geezer


  10. #10
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    Not gonna type that karaoke Thai stuff that Toddy pulls apart...

    Dog look at airplane that has evolved in to dog look at a can of fish..

    snake snake fish fish...

    Speak lemon without water...


    Todd will fill you in with the shite I have wrote...

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bobcock View Post
    I read the thread title as Thai Idiots......

    There's a fair few there that will get you into a fight......
    Even so, it's good to have a passive knowledge of these expressions, even if you would be ill-advised to use them. If as a non-native speaker you are proficient enough to use standard fightin' words effectively (well enough not to simply be laughed at, for starters) you are probably good enough to come up with original insults rather than stock phrases, which can be amusing in that they give the object of derision pause- then you punch them in the throat just when you see the lightbulb of understanding go on over their head.

    Just kidding about the last part.
    “You can lead a horticulture but you can’t make her think.” Dorothy Parker

  12. #12
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    How about puns or wordplay? I got some yucks from Thais when I referred to a very plump girl as a ไดโนสาว (dino-sauw).

  13. #13
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    One for when you're chatting up the girls.

    Wooa gair chob yah orn ( old buffalos like soft grass ) meaning old men like young girls

    Used to confuse girls by running it past them backwards Yah orn chob wooa gair my ? Confused them until the coin dropped

    Dtee mor ...... to beat the pot , euphemism for having a shag.

    Dtookada nah rot ...... Doll in front seat of car ....self explanatory

    Nah wy lang lork .......... Nice to your face but will stab you in the back

    Loads of Thai proverbs online :

    thai-language.com -

    However, in general they are best used sparingly if you don't want to sound like a pratt. How many times has a Thai with some English informed me that it was raining cats and dogs.( when it was only raining ). I could see that they had saved it up and nurtured it until it burst forth in full bloom only to wilt when it didn't have the dramatic effect expected.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bangyai
    Wooa gair chob yah orn
    Cheers, I'll stick that in the bank for 20 years down the line

    Right now it's

    Soot lor me hum yai - ow pbow?

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    I liked the name for motorbikes such as the small motor but quick ones .. girls bike with balls.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bogon View Post
    Not gonna type that karaoke Thai stuff that Toddy pulls apart...

    Dog look at airplane that has evolved in to dog look at a can of fish..

    snake snake fish fish...

    Speak lemon without water...


    Todd will fill you in with the shite I have wrote...
    he pulls it apart for a reason.

  17. #17
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    Believe me I certainly don't hafta type that karaoke thai for people who can't read thai. I include it because far more people can read Benjawan Beckers' phonetic system than any other one out there. At least they'll sound like they're almost speaking thai..

    The วัวแก่ชอบกินหญ้าอ่อน - wua gɛ̀ɛ chɔ̂ɔp gin yâa ɔ̀ɔn - old bulls like to eat tender grass is as old as the hills as far as an idiom..

    Reversing thai phrases to make it into a pun doesn't often give a high yield as far as thaiz getting what you're on about.. I've heard foreigners switch that idiom for quite a while. The question "why does young grass like old bulls to eat it" doesn't really ring the bell for thaiz, even if after a while they seem to work it out.. I'd bet most of the time the thais are งงเป็นไก่ตาแตก - ngong bpen gài dtaa dtɛ̀ɛk - confused as a broken eyed chicken, (stupefied) with stuff like that.

    Neither does making up some witty idiom of your own, especially tryin' to go from engrish into thai. The "anchor points" as far geography, religion, culture, education, etc are all off. Unless a thai is a near native engrish speaker (thin on the ground here), they're unable to even remotely grasp what you're tryin' to say.

    Remember just because a thai laughs at what you say doesn't mean they understand it or thought it was the least bit funny; it means they're laughing at what you said because it was nonsense..

    Stick with the tried and true thai expressions and to a person thaiz will understand what you're on about..

    The งู ๆ ปลา ๆ - nguu nguu bplaa bplaa - is just a phrase which means "not hard core" or not with a high degree of proficiency. Just like the terms กล้วย ๆ - glûai glûai - banana, banana and หมู ๆ - mǔu mǔu - pig, pig, means it's easy as pie, or a piece of cake..

    As far as a dog with a tin can they also have a monkey with a glass, a chicken with a gemstone, and a few others..

    มะนาวไม่มีน้ำ má-naao mâi mii náam just means you speak pretty darned terse, coarse, etc and not in that syrupy sweet way most thaiz are brainwashed to speak like.

    If you screw up or make a blunder you ปล่อยไก่ - bplɔ̀ɔi gài - release the chicken

    They have one called หนวดเต่า เขากระตาย - nùat dtào, kǎo grà dtàai - turtle whiskers and rabbit horns, for things that just ain't possible; and another one งาช้างไม่เคยงอกออกจากปากหมา -ngaa cháang mâi kəəi ngɔ̂ɔk ɔ̀ɔk jàak bpàak mǎa - elephant tusks don't grow out of a dogs mouth, for stuff that's unlikely to happen or hard to find.

    A good one to use which translates exactly as " in your next life!" ชาติหน้าตอนบ่าย ๆ châat nâa dtɔɔn bàai bàai.

    I like their idiom เห็นช้างขี้, ขี้ตามช้าง - hěn cháang kîi, kîi dtaam cháang, see an elephant shit, shit like an elephant, for keeping up with the Jones's.

    Here's one for you foreigners with thai significant others. Often times when a foreign/thai couple passes by thais will say จูงจมูก - juung jà-mùuk in reference to the foreign husband. It means being "led by the nose" like a buffalo by the thai wife.. They also have สนตะพาย - sǒn dtà-paai, which is where you pierce a buffalo's nose prior to beginning to lead it around. That's the first step in taming the "foreign white buffalo"...

    As I said, my taste in idioms, metaphors and phrases certainly aren't for everyone.. But I sure get mileage outta them and to a person if you use one when talkin' to a thai they lighten up 100% and suddenly you can talk to them as in really talk insteada that 'simulating conversation' they usually have with us.

    Here's a word which translates almost exactly as "fucked up"; บัดซบ - bàt sóp.

    And in case you wanna know how to use the word "fuck" in thai as an intensifier for something; here's a video by Alif Silpachai which covers the use of โคตร - kôot.. This is a really useful word and you'll get a LOT of mileage outta it for sure;


    I always tell people who give those same lame-assed excuses about why they can't learn thai (I'm too old, I can't hear the tones, I'm not good with languages, my thai wife she speak engrish good, etc.); There are almost 70 million people here who seem to speak/understand thai just fine. While I'm sure one percent of the world's population is smarter than you, it's statistically impossible that all 70 million of those people are thaiz here in thailand.

    I'm just a dumb hillbilly from Ohio so if I can speak something which sounds enough like thai to get the thaiz to answer back, almost anyone who wants to can too!

    Like the thaiz say; ขึ้นบันไดทีละขั้น - kʉ̂n ban dai tii lá kân - you climb a ladder a step at a time..

    Good Luck, keep at it.

  18. #18
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    cheers tod, a few good ones there. i like กล้วยๆ หมูๆ ขี้ตามช้าง

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    Quote Originally Posted by toddaniels View Post
    I always tell people who give those same lame-assed excuses about why they can't learn thai (I'm too old, I can't hear the tones, I'm not good with languages, my thai wife she speak engrish good, etc.); There are almost 70 million people here who seem to speak/understand thai just fine. While I'm sure one percent of the world's population is smarter than you, it's statistically impossible that all 70 million of those people are thaiz here in thailand.

    I'm just a dumb hillbilly from Ohio so if I can speak something which sounds enough like thai to get the thaiz to answer back, almost anyone who wants to can too!
    It could be that some people who say they "can't learn Thai" for some reason are actually saying they aren't motivated to make the effort- you can't become a truly fluent communicator in any language, especially at a late age (i.e., after about 14) without strong motivation- I would even go so far as to say that inspiration is required. It is possible to gain a passive understanding of a difficult language (Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Russian), such as reading ability, without immersion, but production beyond rudimentary skill- the ability to produce more or less spontaneously without deliberate, conscious thought- can't be developed without dedication (including immersion), and that sort of dedication requires a strong motivator (positive or negative).

    Also, when it comes to the tones, many native speakers of non-tonal languages have poor pitch perception, while on the contrary speakers of tonal languages tend toward perfect pitch.

    Some people may conclude, quite rightly, that their Thai doesn't need to extend beyond the rudimentary because they don't anticipate a great ROI on time spent working on Thai skills. The question of how good a resident farang's Thai skills need be depends on a number of factors. I'm perplexed by farangs who live in Thailand, even in Bangkok, without developing at least strong survival-level Thai, but farangs who come off supercilious because they've put in the work to develop a skill that is well-nigh useless outside Thailand also look more than a little silly to me, although I would only denigrate the attitude, not the achievement.

  20. #20
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    I totally agree; the methodology you use to learn something is not near as important as the motivation you have to learn it.

    In retrospect I think learned thai out of spite;
    Firstly: I got sick of foreigners, who'd been here since Hector was a pup telling me thai was too hard to learn.
    Secondly: after being here for a while it became apparent these people ain't the sharpest tools in the proverbial shed. I knew if they could speak/understand read/write thai so could I, if I wanted to.

    Unfortunately I hafta totally disagree with your premise about the tones. Any speaker of english uses all five tones that thai has. In fact, we use them almost every time we speak. In english we use tones to impart emotional value to what's being said, where thai uses tones to delineate words.

    It's not that foreign learners of thai can't hear the tones. It's that they are listening for the tones for the wrong reasons. Their ears are programmed to hear tones for emotional value to what's being said, NOT to 'hear' different words. It takes time to re-program your ears to listen for the tones for the right reason, but it is NOT beyond the ability of 99.99% of the foreigners here.

    Face it, IF you live here, there's no such thing as a minimal ROI.. For christ's sake you live in and amongst almost 70+ MILLION people who speak thai day in day out!

    While I agree that this language is sort of a one trick pony, seeing as this is the only place it's spoken or used; any proficient thai speaker reader can find pretty regular work outside this country as a translator IF you look around. You'd be surprised how many thaiz live abroad yet can't speak engrish for shit.

    I certainly didn't mean to boast about my half-assed thai ability. I go out of the way to say, it's coarse, it's got a mid-western american hill-billy accent, it's poorly structured and it sounds about as un-thai as a foreigner could sound speaking thai..

    I only meant, if I can do it, anyone who wants to can too.

    Sorry if what I wrote sounded condescending, it was not meant that way. The last thing I wanna do is dissuade people from learning thai.

  21. #21
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    It's true that English speakers not only use tones, to form interrogatives, etc., but they have to unlearn to converse properly in other languages that use tones differently- learn not to raise the voice when asking a question in Thai or Japanese, but the fact remains that speakers of tonal language differentiate between sets of tones better than than non-tonal speakers, with the majority having perfect pitch while a minority of non-tonal language speakers do.

    Otherwise, "live here" means different things to different people, with varying levels of fluency, not to mention areas of vocabulary strength, required. If you are a businessman based here but working in other countries you will have different needs from an attorney, who will have different needs from an academic or a retiree.

  22. #22
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    You're totally right about "un-learning the tones" going from engrish to thai..

    It's just blind luck that the verbal question mark in spoken thai ไหม happens to be a rising tone and is the tone we use when asking questions in english.

    Face it less than 5% of the entire world's population is truly "tone deaf" as in can't hear tones at all. If I had a baht every time some foreigner told me they were tone deaf as an excuse not to learn thai; I'd have at least enough to bug a jug of Leo beer on the side of my Soi! I almost started to think that thailand was a magnet for tone deaf people the world over!

    You're right living here means different things to different people, just like that beat to death word "fluent" does. It truly amazes me the sheer number of people who can't speak thai shit for Shinola; yet who say they know someone who's "fluent in thai"! Christ how would they know? They can't speak thai to begin with!

    It's the same as foreigners saying they know someone who speaks thai with a thai accent. Face it these people (the thaiz) are experts at accent identification. Two thaiz who never met before can interact for a couple minutes both speaking central thai (the government approved version) and yet each will know where the other person grew up, sometimes right down to the area in the province!

    My accent identification at thai sucks yet even I can tell a non-native adult learner of this language when they're speaking. Listen to Andrew Biggs, Todd Thong Dee, Adam Bradshaw, they're all very VERY clear, articulate speakers of thai in their own right; but every thai in the country knows within a couple sentences they're NOT born, bred rice fed native speakers of thai.

    Honestly I don't wanna sound like a thai, mostly because I ain't thai!

    I would also rather be FLUID than fluent.

    By that I mean; what you want to say comes out with the right pauses at the right places, not in a rush of words you can't wait to spit out. Also where you're not hemming and hawing (speaking hesitantly and inarticulately, with numerous pauses and interjections) so much that the thai listening to you loses the will to live before you get to the end of what your tryin' to say..

    I always tell people; I'm certainly not fluent in thai, but I sure am effluent!

    Back ON-TOPIC; here's an old one I came across;
    เพื่อนกินหาง่าย เพื่อนตายหายาก pʉ̂an gin hǎa ngâai, pʉ̂an dtaai hǎa yâak - fair weather friends are easy to find, friends until death, umm not so easy..

    One more in that vein is a rhyming one I found;
    มีเงินนับเป็นน้อง มีทองนับเป็นพี่ ยากจนเงินทอง พี่น้องไม่มี - mii ngən náp bpen nɔ́ɔng, mii tɔɔng náp bpen pîi, yâak jon ngən tɔɔng pîi nɔ́ɔng mâi mii.

    I'll let you work that one out yourselves..

    Good Luck
    Last edited by toddaniels; 02-06-2014 at 03:22 PM.

  23. #23
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    barrylad66's Avatar
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    what about...dont tell your granny how to suck eggs? i think this would come in very, very useful

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by toddaniels View Post
    You're totally right about "un-learning the tones" going from engrish to thai..

    It's just blind luck that the verbal question mark in spoken thai ไหม happens to be a rising tone and is the tone we use when asking questions in english.
    That is lucky for us. An interesting development in Japan, which is properly as flat a language as is imaginable, is that in recent years people have started using a rising tone when asking questions in Japanese, driving the language police nuts. I put it down to overexposure to English.

    Which brings me to the prevalence of English loan words in Thai, and not merely words but phrases. The Japanese adopt heaps of English words but use them only for very specific meanings, sometimes with meanings more or less alien to the original. When you ask what is the point of bringing in new words or phrases for those that already exist and work quite well, the answer is usually that is sounds cool (which mostly means the user is showing off his or her worldiness- "I'm so cosmopolitan!"). I suspect the Thais have similar "reasons."

    The first time I heard my significant other say "I mai care!" I thought she was taking the piss. Then I started hearing others say it.

    Are there any such (and even more bizarre) locutions that you think will stay around? Many such trendy expressions have expiration dates that seem fairly near. The use of "strawberry," which I'm told evolved from "dolay" somehow, seems to have taken root, so to speak.

    Curious about something else as well. Do you find that using idioms is an effective way to convince (over)educated people to stop speaking to you in Thai? I find that speaking to less well-educated people can be much less frustrating, because they make no pretense of being able to speak English, whereas people self-assured in their English ability are not usually receptive to speaking Thai with a farang, to the point of being condescending or even downright rude. Somehow you are Dr. Johnson's dog for speaking Thai, but it's OK for them to speak English.

  25. #25
    I am in Jail
    Camel Toe's Avatar
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    How would you say .. I'm trapped in a shit marriage and am miserable to the point of getting a real chubby from petty acts of revenge?

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