Sunday, 31 January 2010


It's not a glamorous picture but one I think is significant nevertheless.

So why did I snap a picture of the dirty pavement whilst cycling home?

For the word written on the ground. It reads ควย pronounced "kwai" (literally K-W-Y, pronouncing the first consonant in full) meaning buffalo in Thai.

Why on earth would someone write buffalo on the pavement? In the UK, it would be a little crazy but in Thailand there is an explanation.

Thailand hasn't developed anything like the range of swear words which the English-speaking West has. One of the rudest things you can call someone im Thai is really is an offensive term which will certainly not raise a smile.

So the graffiti, if we can call it so, is a rude word.

Funny to think that in writing buffalo someone out there did something rather naughty - hardly compares to what you find in London.

Now you can insult like a Thai though I don't condone doing so - you've been warned.


Martyn said...

Jon the word kwai is one not to be used in anger or indeed strange company but something else struck me about your photograph. The pavement is in remarkably good condition which for the areas of Thailand I frequent is an unseen luxury. Graffiti in an affluent area perhaps, whatever next.

Mike said...

Jon, lets try again since my first comment disappeared!

I like the generally graffiti free environment here.

As I am sure you know the word for bananas sounds similar to the word for buffalo. Hence I am banned by MTF for asking for bananas in Thai-I just point!!

Jon said...

Hi Martyn,

Love the attention to detail. Yeah is a nice I area I pass on my regular cycle run...hint not necessarily where I reside!

Hi Mike,

Losing comments is annoying, thanks for persisting. Yeah banana also sounds like a rude word for a man' know the rest.

Gotta love the Thai language, keeps things interesting.

r said...

Not buffalo at all. Nice idea, but any competent dictionary will tell you they're different words. ควย (khuay) is indeed not for polite company, but the word for buffalo is ควาย (khwaay) with a different vowel length (and vowel length is probably responsible for far more farang errors than tone is ;-)

Oh, and banana is กล้วย (kluây) - unaspirated initial consonant, extra 'l' and a different tone. Apart from that it's much the same word.

Jon said...

Hi R,

Thanks for the comment and correction.

I realised my mistake recently (will teach me to double check with a dictionary next time) but was very slow changing the post, waiting for someone to call it.

It is a little disappointing as my reading/writing is getting to be decent, but the whole point of this post is indeed wrong! Or as you say, a nice try.

r said...

Don't be too disappointed - the only real way to acquire vocabulary in a foreign language is to use it, and a nice guy like you wouldn't be using words like that ;-)
I find I can read and write Thai OK, thanks to Mary R Haas, but with little opportunity to practise, my own vocabulary is practically nonexistent.