February 28, 2009

Translator's Corner: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Before the Brad Pitt movie came along and won three Oscars, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" was just one of F. Scott Fitzgerald's lesser known works.

As I recently noticed, it's also one of the stories translated into Thai in the (now resurrected) Wanakam.com, an excellent website put together by translator extraordinaire Marcel Barang (see also thaifiction.com).

Read "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" in its entirety in English here or in Thai here.

Let's compare the opening paragraphs:
As long ago as 1860 it was the proper thing to be born at home. At present, so I am told, the high gods of medicine have decreed that the first cries of the young shall be uttered upon the anaesthetic air of a hospital, preferably a fashionable one. So young Mr. and Mrs. Roger Button were fifty years ahead of style when they decided, one day in the summer of 1860, that their first baby should be born in a hospital. Whether this anachronism had any bearing upon the astonishing history I am about to set down will never be known. I shall tell you what occurred, and let you judge for yourself.
สมัยเมื่อปี 1860 โน้น การเกิดที่บ้านถือเป็นเรื่องถูกต้องเหมาะสม ส่วนในสมัยนี้ ข้าพเจ้าได้ฟังมาว่าพวกเทพเบื้องสูงทางการแพทย์พากันประกาศิตว่า เด็กทารกควรจะได้เปล่งเสียงร้องครั้งแรกในท่ามกลางบรรยากาศกรุ่นยาสลบในโรง พยาบาล โดยเฉพาะโรงพยาบาลที่ทันสมัยล้ำยุค ดังนั้น สองสามีภรรยาหนุ่มสาว นายและนางโรเจอร์ บัตทอน จึงนับได้ว่ามีหัวก้าวหน้าล้ำยุคล้ำสมัยไปห้าสิบปี เพราะพวกเขาตัดสินใจในวันหนึ่งกลางฤดูร้อนปี 1860 ว่าจะคลอดบุตรคนหัวปีในโรงพยาบาล ไม่มีทางรู้ได้เลยว่าการกระทำผิดยุคผิดสมัยดังว่านี้ ส่งผลต่อเรื่องแปลกประหลาดที่ข้าพเจ้ากำลังจะเล่านี่หรือไม่ ข้าพเจ้าจะเล่าว่าเกิดอะไรขึ้น และปล่อยให้ท่านตัดสินกันเอง

Some vocabulary:

ประกาศิต / decree, command (though notice it's used as a verb here)

ล้ำยุค (or ล้ำยุคล้ำสมัย) / cutting edge, ahead of one's time

ส่งผล / to affect (here equivalent to "have bearing upon")

ผิดยุคผิดสมัย / anachronism - actually as used here it would mean "anachronistic", literally "of the wrong era". This isn't a fixed phrase in Thai, but it's a good translation, I think, given the lack of a good equivalent term. (The ศัพท์บัญญัติ equivalent from the Royal Institute is การผิดกาละ, but you won't see that outside of academic writing.)

The translation also contains some typical Thai embellishments that don't literally correspond with the English. For instance, "young Mr. and Mrs. Roger Button" is translated as สองสามีภรรยาหนุ่มสาว นายและนางโรเจอร์ บัตทอน. The phrase สองสามีภรรยาหนุ่มสาว is a stylistic mashup of atypical grammar (สอง + noun phrase, no classifier) and noun pairs (สามีภรรยา, หนุ่มสาว). These flourishes make it enjoyable to read in Thai.

So enjoy this story in the Oscar afterglow. Now I just need to get around to seeing the movie...

More changes for Thai coins

It turns out that the new two-baht coin is only one of several changes to Thailand's circulating currency. On February 2, the Treasury Department announced changes to a number of coins. The two-baht coin just happened to be the first one released.

The most visible of the other changes (even though these coins are mostly obsolete) is that the 25- and 50-satang coins are now made with copper-clad iron instead of aluminum bronze. The new color looks something like an American penny:

Other changes are less noticeable. The one-baht coin will switch from cupronickel to nickel-clad iron. The five-baht coins will be a hair less thick, and thus will drop in mass from 7.5 to 6.0 grams. The one-, five- and ten-satang coins are also getting minor tweaks, but I'm not even sure why those are still minted at all.

And as with the two-baht coin, it appears that the portrait of the king will be updated on all coins.

I noticed a poster at 7-Eleven that explains the changes. I took a crappy picture with my phone. It's too bad they don't distribute this nice poster as a file on the actual treasury website.

February 27, 2009

Google Maps Thailand debuts

Yesterday Google launched Google Maps Thailand, a localized version of its excellent map service. This means new features for Thai users, including My Maps and Mapplets.

The video below explains in Thai the (very) basics about Google Maps.

Here's another one (also in Thai) about creating your own maps:

Google Maps' coverage of Thailand has gotten very good lately. If you don't read Thai, you can still use the regular website (maps.google.com) to do the same things in English.

Also, check out Flickr user MacroArt's photos from the launch.

[Via Google Maps Mania]

February 26, 2009

Want to help the Thai cinema industry? Buy bonds from Major

Reuters reports that Major Cineplex, Thailand's largest cinema chain, is strapped for cash, and so is planning to sell bonds for as much as 1.5 billion baht (US$42 million). This comes because the company's net profit fell by a startling 50% in 2008.

So if you're into that sort of thing, go ahead and loan Major some of your hard-earned cash by buying bonds. Maturities are up to five years. No word on the interest yet.

Newer movie theaters in Bangkok are actually very nice. I particularly like the semi-reclining seats that are common here. Better even than many newer theaters in the U.S.

In college I worked as a projectionist (among other duties) bouncing between three different theaters. Two were on campus, the other was the local first-run movie theater. It was founded in 1916. And while it was continually remodeling and upgrading, and had lots of character and history, it was still a sparse experience, comfort-wise.

In today's world movie theaters need to keep the theater-going experience attractive to dissuade people from just downloading or waiting for the DVD. There's a lot more they can do yet, but kudos to the local chains like Major for having generally very good facilities. Not to mention that most theaters here have the (pricey) loveseat option, with in-chair massagers, blankets, slippers, and popcorn thrown into the package. Good for the occasional splurge with the missus.

It would be a shame to see them go.

[Via Thai New Portal]

February 25, 2009

It's alive! LEXiTRON v3.0 set to drop Saturday

LEXiTRON is the free Thai-English dictionary from Thailand's National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (NECTEC). Because it's free, it forms the basis for many third-party dictionary services.

The dictionary itself isn't awful, but the website has always been a pain to use. It makes users to register in order to download the dictionary, and then often doesn't actually send a download link.

That may be about to change. The LEXiTRON site is down, replaced with this simple message:
เตรียมพบกับ LEXiTRON Version 3.0 รูปแบบใหม่ เร็วๆนี้ ( 28 กุมภาพันธ์ 2552 ) ขออภัยในความไม่สะดวก เนื่องจาก ขณะนี้ทางทีมงาน ปรับปรุงระบบและรูปแบบของเว็ปไซต์ LEXiTRON ใหม่ทั้งหมด
Translation: "Prepare to meet LEXiTRON Version 3.0 in a new format. Coming soon (28 February 2009). We apologize for the inconvenience. The LEXiTRON team is currently making improvements to the format and system of the whole website."

That's this Saturday, in case your calendar isn't handy. So keep an eye out for that.

In the meantime, Chris Pirazzi of Slice-of-Thai.com (and the new Paiboon dictionary) wrote in to let me know that the new blog Bangkok Library has posted the full download of LEXiTRON version 2.6 on their website.

It's nice to have a no-hassle download. You can get the complete 600MB version with sound files, as well as the 50MB basic dictionary, and even the 5.6MB raw data files. I had some trouble with download speed at first, but it turns out that was probably the fault of my ISP, not the Bangkok Library website.

If you've used LEXiTRON in the past, version 2.6 is already a big improvement in functionality and usability. The audio is computer-generated, unfortunately, so sometimes it's not very clear. Words sound clipped, which can make tones and vowel length hard to hear (and imitate).

Anyway, we should know soon enough what version 3.0 has in store.

February 24, 2009

Tourism Authority of Thailand wants to publish your blog

So this is interesting. The Tourism Authority of Thailand is looking for submissions of articles and "blogs" (by which they mean blog posts) about traveling in Thailand for what we might call a "Franken-blog" on their Amazing Thailand site.

Submissions are subject to approval, as well as editing for content, grammar and spelling. They'll link back to your website if they post your work. So if that's all cool with you, feel free to submit.

Taking a look at the RSS feed provided, so far there are only half a dozen posts. Three are unattributed, and are probably produced in-house. The other three are from writers at thai-blogs.com like Stephen Cleary.

This new blog of theirs is only a month old, so writers submitting work probably already get more traffic than it does. But if it picks up steam, that could change.

Read the details for more information.

Thai Movie Titles: 2008 Oscar winners and nominees

Thai titles for western films are sometimes corny, sometimes spoilery, and always entertaining. Especially when you translate them back into English. They have a style of their own. Most typically, a subtitle is added to give local viewers a better idea of the content.

Have a look at some (mostly literal) translations of the Thai titles of some 2008 Academy Award winners and nominees:

Slumdog Millionaire
สลัมด็อก มิลเลี่ยนแนร์ คำตอบสุดท้ายอยู่ที่หัวใจ
"Slumdog Millionaire: the final answer is in your heart"

Revolutionary Road
ถนนแห่งฝัน สองเรานิรันดร์
"Road of Dreams: the two of us forever"

The Reader
เดอะ รีดเดอร์ ในอ้อมกอดรักไม่ลืมเลือน
"The Reader: in the embrace of unforgotten love"

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
เบนจามิน บัททอน อัศจรรย์ฅนโลกไม่เคยรู้
"Benjamin Button: miraculous person the world has never known"

The Dark Knight
แบทแมน อัศวินรัตติกาล
"Batman: knight of the night time"

"Little robot whose heart saves the world"

ฮาร์วี่ย์ มิลค์ ผู้ชายฉาวโลก
"Harvey Milk: man notorious worldwide"

เด้าท์ ปริศนาเกินคาดเดา
"Doubt: puzzle beyond guessing"

In Bruges
"Killer duo in the big city"

February 19, 2009

Thai film ratings system to take effect in May

WiseKwai, as always, keeps us informed on the latest film news. Thailand's first film rating system, empowered by the Film and Video Act of 2007 [PDF], will take effect May 2009.

The quick version, condensed by WK from yesterday's Daily Xpress story:
  • General Audiences -- No sex, abusive language or violence.
  • Promote -- Films that should be promoted on the basis of cultural or artistic merit.
  • 13 -- No violence, brutality, inhumanity, bad language or indecent gestures.
  • 15 -- Some violence, brutality, inhumanity, bad language or indecent gestures allowed.
  • 18 -- No exposed genitalia, crime or drugs.
  • 20 -- Sex scenes allowed but no exposed genitalia.
  • Ban -- Films that offend the monarchy, threaten national security, hamper national unity, insult faiths, disrespect honourable figures, challenge morals or contain explicit sex scenes.

The new law replaces the Film Act of 1930 [PDF]. Ideally, it would have eliminated (or at least reduced) censorship. This looks set to further empower the censors. Films will still be banned, and its unclear whether they'll still use the pixelation-style censorhip they've done in the past.

We'll have to wait and see how it plays out in real life.

Head over to the Thai Film Journal for more details.

Searching the David K. Wyatt Collection

New Mandala has a post about Ohio University's new database for the David K. Wyatt Southeast Asia Collection, a 15,000-volume library of books they purchased in 2005 from the estimable historian, who passed away in November 2006. (This gives me a life goal, by the way -- my current Thai library is maybe 500 books. Clearly I need to step up my game!)

Only about 10% of the Wyatt Collection has been cataloged so far, but it makes for very interesting browsing. The site is a pretty typical OPAC, so no compliments from me there.

The database is useful because it includes both Thai and English cataloging data. Usually you'll only get Thai in Thailand and only phonetic in the U.S. The entries also include many helpful explanatory notes that give context to the books.

Two other useful features of this database: bilingual subject headings and phonetic Thai lookup. For the phonetic, you may need to familiarize yourself with the Library of Congress Thai romanization scheme, but fortunately the diacritics aren't necessary. For example, อักษร is romanized as aksō̜n (with macron + cedilla), but searching akson works just fine.

As it turns out, Dr. Wyatt had a better collection than some actual Thai libraries! I've already found a few interesting titles that I need to track down in local libraries now.

I'm going to keep an eye on this resource, as more of the Wyatt Collection gets cataloged.

[Hat tip to Catherine]

February 17, 2009

Fighting "one bag, one product"

After reading BangkokDan's all-too-familiar experience with the "real" Thailand, and his subsequent determination to do his part, I have decided to try a new policy.

My new policy is this: I will no longer leave 7-Eleven with more than one plastic bag. Sure, I could do zero, and when feasible I will.

But consider a trip I made this morning. I bought:
  • 4 cans of Coke Zero
  • 1 loaf of bread
  • 1 microwaveable meal of ผัดกะเพรา
  • 2 hot dogs
This will come as a surprise to no one who frequents 7-Eleven (aka anyone), but they tried to give me five bags. One for the cold items, one for the microwave meal (not microwaved), one for the loaf of bread, and one each for the hot dogs. I consolidated into one bag, carrying the hot dogs in my hands, and explained simply that it's better for the environment if they hand out fewer plastic bags.

I wouldn't be surprised if 7-Eleven is the single worst offender in plastic trash-generation in Thailand. There are 5000 branches nationwide, and they always give you at least one bag, unless you specifically tell them not to. They put your bottle of water or pack of gum in a plastic bag.

If we conservatively estimate that 7-Eleven averages a transaction per minute, times 24 hours, that's 1,440 per day per location, or more than 7,000,000 (!) transactions nationwide per day. Even at only one plastic bag per transaction, we're talking 2.5+ billion plastic bags a year from 7-Eleven. And my single transaction would have received five plastic bags!

Is my math totally off, or does this all sound scarily feasible?

I always try to reuse plastic bags. But often it's only to put some other article of trash in and then throw it away. No two ways about it--their ultimate destination is always the trash bin.

So here's me doing my (admittedly minuscule) part to help out Thailand's terrible trash situation.

It would be really amazing to see 7-Eleven (or another store) show some corporate responsibility and start a campaign to reduce their own trash production. It would be an example for every other shop and street vendor who hand out plastic bags willy-nilly.

Next I need to follow Dan's example and start picking up trash in my neighborhood, too. It's simply not enough that I personally never litter.

New recruits for the Royal Thai Police

[Update, December 17, 2009: Channel 3 ran a news report tonight stating that the police mannequins are being removed. A police official gave an interview stating that they received complaints from the public that the mannequins do not solve traffic problems (shocker!), and also give the impression that the police are too lazy to do their jobs.]

Has anyone else noticed the extremely diligent and friendly new police officers standing at many intersections in Bangkok? Here's a photo I snapped:

These are, of course, mannequin policemen. I've seen them at dozens of intersections everywhere I frequent. A closer look:

So, is it just me, or does anyone else think some police bigwig's nephew owns a mannequin factory? Why else would they buy these? The flesh and blood variety of policemen are not paid much .. I wonder how many of those they could have hired for the same price.

And you thought the real cops were dummies! (Couldn't resist.)

February 14, 2009

Up and coming Thai language blogs

When I started this blog almost two years ago, I think the only blog about the Thai language was Scott Imig's Journey to Thai.

Web resources like Thai-Language and the Thai language forums at ThaiVisa and ThailandQA have been around much longer, of course, and are very useful resources. But Blogs have their own unique benefits and pleasures, so I'm glad that Thai 101 has gained a readership, and that it continues to grow.

I'm long overdue to give some link love to a couple of newer Thai language blogs. They're not so new anymore, though -- I meant to post about them months ago. Better late than never!

Women Learning Thai was started in June 2008, and is not limited to women, of course. The author, Cat, writes about her experiences learning Thai, expat life, and posts a lot of resources for those more toward the beginner end of the Thai learning scale. See, for example, Thai language cheat sheets or her detailed breakdown of the Thai alphabet poem.

Learn Thai From a White Guy started in May 2008, written by "Gwindarr" (aka Brett), whose Thai is quite advanced. He's a student at a Thai university, but his blog also aims toward the beginner's end of the scale. He's recently begun a series of YouTube videos, so you can watch his Thai in action as he is interviewed about his day, or explains usage for phrases like เฉยๆ.

If you're a regular reader here, or just passing through, you'll want to keep an eye on both of these blogs.

And send me an email if you know of others. Or start your own!

February 13, 2009

Happy Friday the 13th

For those who pay attention to such things, the pithy Thai way to say "Friday the 13th" is ศุกร์สิบสาม /suk sip saam/ (alliteration, you see). Of course, วันศุกร์ที่สิบสาม /wan suk thii sip saam/ also works, but it's not as catchy.

In the U.S. there's a new Jason movie out today, of course. Here it's not such a big deal -- คนไทยไม่ถือ.

(For me, it's just my 26th birthday. Happy birthday, old man.)

Two-baht coin changes color, artwork

Have you seen this yet? The new two-baht coins now have a golden hue, with subtle changes to the artwork.

According to the coin's entry on Wikipedia (geez, they have articles on everything), they were released on February 3rd.

The new metal is aluminum bronze, replacing nickel-coated low-carbon steel. Its info page on the Thai Treasury website provides further details: the aluminum bronze alloy consists of 92% copper, 6% aluminum, and 2% nickel.

The overall look of the coin is the same, with His Majesty the King on the obverse, and Wat Saket on the reverse. However, the artwork has changed subtly, having been redesigned for the new version of the coin. His Majesty's likeness is larger, and there are also subtle changes on the reverse.

The new coins were minted, as the Thai numerals show, in 2551, aka 2008. The Treasury website says the date the coins were announced (วันที่ประกาศใช้) is February 5, 2008. That's a full year ago--did they mean 2009, or there is a large gap between announcement and release into circulation?

When I first held the new coin, I thought it felt lighter than its predecessor. Turns out I'm not crazy -- it's 0.4 grams slimmer. I can't believe my fingers could detect that!

The two-baht coin is becoming more and more common. Introduced in 2005, the number minted has increased each year. In 2007, more than a quarter-billion were produced, bringing the total number of two-baht coins in circulation to more than 400 million.

I received these coins today as change at two stores located several kilometers apart, so I guess they've already been widely distributed. This is the first I've seen of them.

February 11, 2009

AirAsia offers 500,000 free seats for 5th anniversary

Here's a deal my wife spotted: To celebrate its 5th anniversary, the Malaysian budget airline AirAsia is giving away 500,000 seats on flights to Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, India, Laos, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, and Australia. Actual travel dates are for between October 2009 and January 2010.

The catch, of course, is that it's only the first leg. You pay for the return trip. Still, though, pretty cool promotion. If you were looking for an excuse to get out and see somewhere in the region you've never been to, go for it.

I'm not going to tell you where I'm planning to book for, lest you steal my seat.

February 7, 2009

Thai language added to Google Translate

I just learned that Google Translate, a machine translation tool from everyone's favorite search engine company, has added support for the Thai language, plus six more. This brings the total up to 41 languages, with the capability to translate between any two of them. You can either cut-and-paste text or feed it a URL to have it translate entire pages.

The accuracy of machine translation improves the more data Google has, usually in the form of bilingual corpora. So expect the results to be a huge grab bag for now, but also expect them to get better over time.

Notice that after you paste text to be translated, there's a link on the bottom right of the results page inviting you to "Suggest a better translation." This is great, because it harvests human knowledge to augment the machine translation.

The simple phrase ผมชื่อสมชาย returned "I named Somchai", so I suggested "My name is Somchai" instead. Piece of cake. Then I tried อภิสิทธิ์ เวชชาชีวะ (knowing it would likely translate it literally). It returned "Prerogative physician Charles existence." So I suggested "Abhisit Vejjajiva".

I've never really explored all the features of Google Translate, since I don't really know any of the languages it has hitherto supported. Exploring it now with Thai, though, they have another really cool feature: Translated Search. It's your basic cross-lanugage information retrieval. You search in your native language, specify the target language, and it returns pages in that language about the thing you searched.

For example, if you want to find Thai websites about Thai history (for, say, the images), search "Thai history", with Thai as the target language. It returns pages like the Thai Wikipedia entry on Thai history, with the first few lines in both languages. You can then click through to see the whole page translated, or view it in the original language. Quite handy.

Unfortunately, these new tools suffer from the same problem that Thai searching in regular Google does: tone marker blindness. Type ชา "tea" into Google Translate and you get "slow" (which is actually spelled ช้า), type ดิ้น "squirm" and it returns "soil" (actually ดิน), ไหม "silk" returns "burn" (actually ไหม้), and so forth. It's a problem.

Still, though, I'm really glad to see Thai on Google Translate. It can only get better with time.

February 6, 2009

Paiboon's new Thai-English-Thai dictionary about to hit stores

Paiboon Publishing recently announced the release of their latest dictionary, the New Thai & English Pocket Dictionary. Word on the street is it will hit stores within the month.

Paiboon is a U.S.-based publisher, the company behind the Speak Like a Thai series, and the ... for Beginners series (Thai, Lao, Vietnamese, Cambodian), as well as several sequels for Thai (Thai for Intermediate Learners, Thai for Advanced Readers, etc.).

Like its previous incarnation, the new Paiboon dictionary is in three sections: English, Thai, and phonetic. This definitely stretches the limits of what can reasonably be called a "pocket" dictionary, since it weights in at 982 pages. But I'm told that it's always been a very good seller, and the inclusion of a phonetic section is probably a large part of the reason why.

The page on Paiboon's website gives these stats: 28,000 entries, 36,000 definitions, and 15,000 classifiers. That last stat means that for each noun entry, it also gives you the relevant classifier, a logical inclusion that is often left out.

There are also a few sample pages. One obvious change is that the phonetic section is now only a phonetic index. Since they've beefed up their word coverage and increased the font size, something had to go, and this was it.

Also, notice the little icons for each entry, telling you which register (level of speech) or each word belongs to: polite, slang, royal, monk, etc. It looks like there are also icons for jargon categories like medical, legal, etc.

Have a look at the sample pages from Paiboon's site:

I look forward to getting a closer look as soon as it's available.

February 4, 2009

Thai Soda: Krating Daeng (Red Bull) Cola

After my post about Pepsi Green, I thought I'd review another unique Thai soda offering.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Krating Daeng Cola:

You may know that Krating Daeng (or กระทิงแดง) is the Thai version (the original version, really) of Red Bull. The name "Red Bull" is a literal translation of Krating Daeng (except that a "krating" is actually a gaur, but who's ever heard of a gaur?). The two energy drinks, however, are not very similar. The Thai version is more sweet and not carbonated.

So what can we expect from Krating Daeng Cola? Well, somewhat puzzlingly, it states very clearly in two languages on the can that it's caffeine free. Go figure.

The ingredients listed here are a bit small to see, but it says: ส่วนประกอบที่สำคัญโดยประมาณ  น้ำตาล 11.7% แต่งกลิ่นและรสเลียนธรรมชาติ เจือสีธรรมชาติ ใช้วัตถุกันเสีย "Main ingredients (approximate): Sugar 11.7%, artificial flavors, natural colors. Contains preservatives."

I know recipes are trade secrets, but Thai sodas fess up to much less than American sodas do. Without caffeine, one wonders if it's loaded with lots of other lesser-known, lesser-regulated stimulants. But they go to such pains telling you it's caffeine free, it's like they want to make sure Red Bull fans don't get the wrong idea that it's an energy drink (and thus don't buy it).

I also wonder if by "sugar" they really mean actual sugar, like R.C. Cola is (let's face it -- was) famous for using, instead of the high-fructose corn syrup that I believe is the norm in American soft drinks.

The two Red Bull companies are entirely separate except for shareholders, as I understand it, but they share the famous logo of bulls charging each other. The familiar logo only appears under the tab on the top of the can, however.

So how does it taste? Sweet. Very, very sweet. There's far less carbonation than either Pepsi or Coke, almost so that it seems flat. But after drinking a few swigs, the aftertaste of the sugar stayed a long time. It felt kind of like Hawaiian Punch always makes me feel -- like I can feel the cavities forming. (I avoid Hawaiian Punch for this reason, by the way.)

If given a taste test I would know that it was neither Pepsi nor Coke. It's not trying to be overly similar to either of them, though. It's doing it's own thing. And while I don't particularly care for the result, I can respect that. This is no wannabe Shasta rip-off, it's just a mediocre cola.

I still have no idea why T.C. Pharmaceuticals (a disturbing name for a soft drink company, frankly) thinks a non-caffeinated Red Bull drink will be a good seller, though.

We might as well shelve it alongside the lead-free pencils and onion-flavored breath mints. Your mileage may vary.

[Note: There is also a Red Bull Cola that was released by the international Red Bull brand in 2008, which I've never tried. Their ingredient list includes several natural flavors, unlike the Thai version, as well as caffeine. If anyone can say how they compare, please do enlighten.]

February 2, 2009

Trying too hard to be clever

Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok, where my family usually goes for medical treatment, is a nice place. Nice facilities, several restaurants to choose from, and good medical care. One thing consistently bothers me, though. In the parking garage, the signs indicating which ramps are for ascending and descending look like this:

See the problem? They're trying to be clever, instead of simply delivering the information required. They've abbreviated "down" as dn, which is an exact 180-degree rotation of the word up. The problem is, "dn" is not a word, so my brain actually reads both as "up", because it makes more sense for it to be an upside-down real word than a right-side-up fake one.

I'll admit, it's clever. But I think it's misplaced. Consider the audience: a mixture of Thais and foreigners from virtually every nation on earth. Bumrungrad is a big medical tourism destination. They even did a whole segment on it on 60 Minutes in the U.S. a few years back. If this is confusing for a native speaker of English, how is this useful for anyone else?

Sure, there are arrows, and the meaning should be clear from the context, but in that case why not just write the words in Esperanto? It would make as much sense.

I think they'd be better off (a) spelling the word "down" properly and dispensing with the misplaced cleverness, or (b) ditching the English entirely in favor of universally understood giant arrows.

Here's the same picture as above, rotated 180 degrees. If it weren't for the electrical wiring and the Thai writing, you honestly might not know which way was up!