Bumper stickers are us…
Bumper stickers in Thailand make for an interesting language lesson and a good way to pass time when you’re caught in traffic.
Apart from the typical เมา ไม่ ขับ /mao mai khap/ “Don’t Drink and Drive” and เรา รัก ในห ลวง /rao rak nai luang/ “We Love the King” stickers, one can typically count on Thai bumper stickers to be one of two things: clever and sexually suggestive. Frequently they are both.
One clever sticker I saw recently made me chuckle. On government vehicles you’ll see the lettering ใช ใ้น ราชการ เท่า นั้น /chai nai raatchakaan thao nan/ “For Official Government Use Only” below the logo of whatever department it belongs to.
A taxi had adorned its bumper with: ใช้ หนี ราชการ เท่า นั้น /chai nii raatchakaan thao nan/ “For Fleeing (from) Government Officials Only”, a play on the usual phrase by simply replacing ใน /nai/ with หนี /nii/.
If your sensibilities aren’t too delicate, take a look at the website that Doug Cooper put up sometime back during the Clinton administration: Thai Bumper Stickers (no longer online)
It’s a large collection of Thai bumper stickers. Most are transcribed and many are translated. Some of the translations are wrong, and you have to download a special font to see the phonetic Thai, but it’s still a nice collection. The content is not the kind of Thai you’ll want to use in polite company, if ever. Be warned.
Here’s one that’s suggestive but relatively mild: รับ สอน ก่อน วิวาห์ /rap son gon wiwaa/, which means “(I teach) wedding night lessons”.
And another nice bit of wordplay:
It reads: วัตถุ เมา ไว /wat-too mao wai/ “Highly intoxicatable”. This is a play on วัตถุ ไว ไฟ /wat-too wai fai/ “Flammable material”, as seen on gas tankers, liquid propane cylinders and so on.
There is another popular one that I’ve seen so many times, that I began wondering if I’d gone colorblind.
The gimmick is sticker lettering on the rear of the car saying: รถ คัน นี้ สี (X) /rot kan nee see X/ “This car is (color)”, filling in the blank with any color that the car isn’t. The lettering is often the color the car purports to be, but not always.
A typical example is a pink taxi with lettering on its bumper: รถ คัน นี้ สี เขียว /rot kan nee see kieow/ “This car is green”. I looked around on some Thai message boards, and many people claim it’s done to แก้ เคล็ค /gae klet/ as Thais say – “to ward off bad luck”, because some colors are considered luckier than others.
I’m sure plenty do it to be ironic or trendy.
One more for the road, from the “just-keep-telling-yourself-that” department:
ลูก ผู้ ชาย ต้อง ไว้ พุง /look poo chaai tong wai poong/ “Real men have a paunch.”
There is certainly no lack of bumper stickers on vehicles in Thailand, and trying to read them can also improve your ability to read some of the highly stylized fonts that are often used on signs and other forms of advertising, such as Thai script designed to look like Chinese, which we see around the Vegetarian Festival.
This might even help you to start to develop the confidence you will need to read the most difficult script of all: handwritten Thai.
The Thai 101 Learners Series first appeared in the Phuket Gazette ’08
@ Copyright 2008-2009 Rikker Dockum