Happy Birthday, กทม!

25 April 2014: hours of unsubtitled Thai TV & movies watched = 739.5

กทม ("gaw taw maw"), a common way of referring to Bangkok in Thai, is an acronym taken from the first three syllables of the city's name.

กทม (“gaw taw maw”), a common way of referring to Bangkok in Thai, is an acronym taken from the first three syllables of the city’s name.

Apparently I’m late to the party: Monday 21 April marked the 232nd anniversary of the official founding of Bangkok. So a happy (if belated) birthday to the city that is now my home!

This reminds me of a funny story from my early days learning Thai. I started classes right upon arriving in Thailand for the first time, and had had very little experience with the language before then. Every day I went to class at AUA, the beginner’s class of AT1, and before long realized that there was a certain word that I was hearing again and again, and that that word had something to do with place.

I didn’t know the meaning of that word, but I heard it being used so often that I thought it must mean something like here or there.

If you watch the video below, you can hear this word being sung – it’s the very first two syllables of the song, beginning at about 1:12, and then repeated a number of times, at 1:44 etc.

What’s particularly funny is that I “should have” known better: when I was in the US preparing for my move to Thailand, I had already read my guide book’s explanation of how although Bangkok is the name used by foreigners, Thais call the city by a different name altogether: กรุงเทพ, which is the first two syllables of the full name, the highly ornate if unwieldly กรุงเทพมหานคร อมรรัตนโกสินทร์ มหินทรายุธยา มหาดิลกภพ นพรัตนราชธานีบูรีรมย์ อุดมราชนิเวศน์มหาสถาน อมรพิมานอวตารสถิต สักกะทัตติยวิษณุกรรมประสิทธิ์.

(Doesn’t this recall the old Monty Python Skit?)

Or sometimes this city is referred to by an acronym taken from the first three syllables of the full name, กทม (“gaw taw maw”).

In any event, it was just another fact about Thailand that I had read and forgot. It took a number of hours at AUA before I realized that, hmmm, I wasn’t hearing this word all the time because it referred to place generically (here or there), but because it referred to a specific place: the vast, sprawling city that I now found myself living in, and which was the locus of so many of the stories my teachers were telling.

— กรุงเทพมหานคร by อัสนี วสันต์

Anyway, may it be a good year – happy and safe – for this city and all those it embraces!

 

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