January 9, 2008

Old News: 19th Century comedy!

I've found a fun piece from the Bangkok Recorder to share today. I think it was published as filler, because it's a short humorous anecdote that ran on the inside of the back page of the issue, the least important page of a newspaper. Kind of like the forerunner to Reader's Digest using jokes to fill in the space after articles, I guess.

As with the last two installments of Old News, it was first published on November 3, 1865.

A mild warning
ครั้งก่อนมีขุนนางผู้ใหญ่, ได้นั่งกินโตะด้วยกันกับคนอื่นมากนั่งแน่นกันนัก. มีคนหนึ่งที่พูดมาก ๆ นั่งใกล้กันกับคนนั้น. คนที่พูดมากนั้น, ครั้นพูดแล้วก็ยกมือไปมาตามคำที่เขาพูดด้วย. ขุนนางนั้นจึ่งบอกกับเขานั้นว่า, มือของท่านเปนเครื่องรำคาญใจข้าพเจ้านัก. คนนั้นจึงตอบว่า, ขอรับกระผมคนแน่นมาก, เกล้าผมไม่รู้ที่จะเอาไว้ที่ไหนได้, ขุนนางนั้นจึ่งตอบว่า, ถ้าอย่างนั้น ก็เอามือยัดไว้ในปากเสียเถิด.
And my translation:
A mild warning
Once an important nobleman was having a meal with many other people, all crammed around the table. One person sitting near him was talking nonstop. When the man was speaking he would wave his arms about along with his words. So the nobleman said to him, "Your hands are an annoyance to me." The man replied, "my lord, the table is so crowded that I don't know where to put them!" The nobleman thus replied, "If that's the case, then stick them in your mouth!"
As far as I know, Dan Beach Bradley wrote (or often translated) the entire contents of the newspaper, which makes me wonder if this joke isn't translated from some Western source. It strikes me as vaguely familiar, but I can't place it. Has anyone heard a story similar to this in English?

Something interesting to notice about the language usage:
The pronoun เกล้าผม. Many Thai higher-register pronouns (those used to show respect to superiors) comes from words that refer to either the head (as in this case) or the feet (as in ใต้เท้า). As I understand it, เกล้าผม makes reference to the topknot that was historically worn at the apex of the head by children (until ceremonially cut). But it's particularly interesting to see it in the same sentence with กระผม. I had previously wondered about the origin of กระผม, and considered the possibility that it is a phonologically reduced form of เกล้าผม. This example shows how both are used as honorific pronouns, and they seem to be interchange, but the fact that they both show up in the same sentence may be evidence against my little theory. RID99 includes an entry for เกล้ากระผม, a hybrid of these two, but we need a lot more textual evidence before we can clearly lay out the order of origin for the different versions. (Incidentally, this connection with the head demonstrates that it's no coincidence that ผม means both "hair" and "I". The meaning "hair" undoubtedly came first, and gave rise to the respectful pronoun.)

1 comment:

  1. in macfarland's thai-english dictionary he describes 'กระ' as a prefix added to monosyllabic words to ensure euphony. he also tells that it's found in ancient literature in place of 'ตระ' as in 'ตระกุล' and 'ตระลาการ'. anything to be made of this?