October 15, 2007

Drawn out woooooords

There's something I've noticed about writing Thai. When one wants to indicate a word that is drawn out, like in the title of this post, you typically multiply the last consonant of the word. As in, คิดถึงมากกกกกก "I miss (you) soooooooo much". Now, in both languages, the sound you're actually drawing out is the vowel. That's why it's interesting, I guess. You might expect it to be written มาาาาาาก. And indeed, you can find instances of this on the internet--or a combination of both, e.g. มาาากกก--but not many, versus hundreds of thousands the other way. The exception to this is words that have no final consonant (a.k.a. open syllables). For example, อย่า would be อย่าาา, มา would be มาาาา, etc.

So, I wondered, how do you draw out syllables like รู้ in writing? It's an open syllable, but you can't draw extra vowels without extra consonants. And รู้รู้รู้ would mean repetition of the whole word, not drawing out the vowel. As it turns out, the internet contains instances of both รรรรรรู้ and รู้รรรรร. Which is predictable, since non-linear vowels don't have a obvious strategy. For โอ้โห, the results are similar both โโโอ้โห and โอออ้โห among others.

Of course, this is informal writing, and so there's probably no real standard. I have seen words drawn out like this in advertising. A billboard for condos near where I work that says in huge letters, โดนนนนนสุดๆ (โดน here is short for โดนใจ, "to be to one's liking").

As an exercise, I tried Googling the word มาก with varying numbers of extra ก's. And no matter how long I got, there were always results, with such expected culprits as "น่ารักมากกกกกกกกกกก", "สวยมากกกกกกกกกกกกกกกกกกก", "เยอะมากกกกกกกกกกกกกกก" etc. I also discovered that Google has a limit on the length of a single word. It's 42 characters. After that it tells you X is too long a word. Try using a shorter word. It still carries out the search, though. So I tried even longer. And longer. And longer. I was still getting around 26,000 results! And then it happened: Google just couldn't take it anymore. It told me "
Bad Request. Your client has issued a malformed or illegal request." The internet cops are knocking on my door as I type.


  1. What about ๆ ? You get plenty of Google results for อยากรู้ๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆ and I don't think ๆ is indicating repetition of the whole word here as I've never heard anyone say อยากรู้รู้ , but "sara uu" of รู้ is often lengthened for emphasis .

    มากๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆ gets 144,000 results (!) and there seem to be plenty longer than that too, but alas Google says "ๆ" (และคำถัดๆ มา) ไม่ถูกค้นหา เพราะเราจำกัดคำค้นหาไว้ที่ 32 คำ so it's hard to tell.

  2. That's really interesting that they repeat the consonant in writing like that. I think we do that in English too sometimes, but it's always in combination with vowels:
    Heeelllllllppppp mmmmmmeeeeee!

    As far as I know, the Japanese don't draw out sounds like that for normal words, although there are a few words designated for that purpose: "eeeeeeeeeeee?"

  3. Mike: Good point. I'm not entirely convinced, but I think you might be onto something. The reason I'm still on the fence is that ๆ can indicate repetition of a whole phrase, so อยากรู้ๆๆๆๆๆ could mean "อยากรู้อยากรู้อยากรู้..." That's maybe a stretch, though, because of the sheer number of times ๆ is repeated (try saying อยากรู้ repeatedly aloud--it's a tongue twister). However, I think in writing, and especially in informal internet writing, there are constructions we would use for emphasis that we wouldn't literally say. So it's hard to say definitely whether อยากรู้ๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆ would represent something like /yaak ruuuuuuuuuu/, /yaak ruu, yaak ruu, yaak ruu.../, or maybe even a purely symbolic emphasis without an intended real-world pronunciation. Perhaps more than one of those options, too.

    I do think in the case of มากๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆ that it probably does indicate repetition of the whole word--but I like to have my cake and eat it, too, so I'll reserve the right to be wrong. Great thoughts on the subject, though.

    Thomas: Thanks for stopping by, and you're right about English. Just goes to show there's always more than one way to skin a cat. By the way, your blog looks interesting (despite my not knowing much about Japanese). You already gave me an idea for a new series of posts. Consider me subscribed.

  4. Thanks for visiting and thanks for the kind words!