Monday, November 20, 2006

What's in a Name?

Tigger Here's a unique concept. Everyone in Thailand that has the same last name is related to one another. And not only are they related, but they generally recognize each other at family reunions and such. Coming as I do from the "land of a million Smiths," this is a seriously strange idea for me.

The topic came up today as my language teacher asked me what I am doing tomorrow.

"Prungnii kuhn gamlang ja tham arai?" she said, which litterally means "tomorrow you will do what?"

"Prungnii phom gamlang ja len golf." I replied revealing my plans to play a round of golf.

"Ahhh" she said. "Cheu khon len golf gap arai?"

"Phom gamlang ja len golf gap Kuhn Derek," I said easily providing the name of my playing partner and thinking to myself "Well this is going quite well."

"Ahhh, Kuhn Derek," she repeated, and then "Naamsagun kuhn Derek arai?"

This turned out the be the critical question because Derek's last name (naamsagun) is Anderson.

"Khun Derek naamsagun Anderson," I uttered at which time Noi nearly exploded in a frenzy of activity searching her lesson materials and finally producing the name of one of her other students, Ian Anderson. And then she proclaimed "They are related!"

You and I know that such a relation is unlikely, but to a Thai it is a very simple matter. Same last name = related.

From time to time I run across someone with my same last name and we are never, ever related, or at least they don't admit to it. But here, if you meet someone named Joe, Fred, Bob or Mary, if their last name is Chuanarong, you can bet your last Baht that they are related to my Thai teacher. Isn't that amazing? Or maybe I'm just easily entertained.


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