September 20, 2008

Thai bumper stickers

Bumper stickers in Thailand are make for an interesting language lesson when you're caught in traffic. Apart from the typical เมาไม่ขับ "Don't Drink and Drive" and เรารักในหลวง "We Love the King" stickers, one can typically count on Thai bumper stickers to be one of two things, and frequently both: clever and filthy.

One clever sticker I saw recently made me chuckle. On government vehicles you'll see the lettering ใช้ในราชการเท่านั้น "For Official Use Only" below the logo for whatever department it belongs to. A taxi had adorned its bumper with: ใช้หนีราชการเท่านั้น "For Fleeing (from) Officials Only", a play on the usual phrase by replacing ใน /nai/ with หนี /nii/.

If you're sensibilities aren't too delicate, take a look over at
this website that Doug Cooper put up sometime during the Clinton administration.

It's a large collection of Thai bumper stickers. Most are transcribed and many are translated. Some of the translations are wrong, and you have to download a special font to see the phonetic Thai, but it's still a nice collection. The content is not the type of Thai you'll want to use in polite company, if ever. Be warned.

Here's one that's suggestive but relatively mild:

"(I teach) wedding night lessons"

And another nice bit of wordplay:

"Highly intoxicatable"
(a play on วัตถุไวไฟ "flammable material", seen on gas tankers, etc.)

Another popular one I've seen so many times now that I began wondering if I'd gone colorblind. The gimmick is sticker lettering on the rear of the car saying รถคันนี้สี(X) "this car is (color), filling in the blank with any color that the car isn't. The lettering is often the color the car purports to be, but not always.

A typical example: a pink taxi might have lettered on its bumper: รถคันนี้สีเขียว "this car is green". I looked around on some Thai message boards, and many people claim it's done to แก้เคล็ด, as Thais say -- to ward off bad luck. I'm sure plenty do it to be ironic or trendy.

One more for the road, from the just-keep-telling-yourself-that department:

"Real men have a paunch."


  1. ชอบบล๊อคนี้มากที่สุดเลย มีประโยชน์ สาระ ให้การเรียนรู้ทางด้านภาษาไทย อย่างดี คนทำก็ขยันมากเลย เก่ง!

    จากเด็กเลี้ยงแกะ (สต๊อป)

  2. Excellent post. I started collecting Thai bumper stickers several months back.

    The sticker carts roam around where I live, but not always in the same place. So, I never know when I'm going to pass one.

    Some of the fancy script used on Thai stickers is too difficult for me to read, so I pull in favours.

    The process has garnered more than a bit of pink on the cheeks!

  3. สต๊อปชมจริงหรือแกล้งชมกันแน่ อ๋อ พรุ่งนี้ริกเกอร์(และครอบครัว)จะแจมไปกินข้าวบ้านสต๊อปด้วยนะ บอกพ่อแม่ให้ซื้อข้าวไว้เยอะๆ ไม่งั้นริกเกอร์จะกินอิ่มคนเดียว คนอื่นอดเลย!! :P

    Cat, thanks. If you have any real stumpers, feel free to drop me a line. They're fun to figure out. I've also just subscribed to your Thai language blog (gender notwithstanding). :)

  4. rikker, Good deal. I'd love to be able to send some over to you.

    I had the present lot translated, but I'm sure to grab more whenever I can get a taxi driver to stop (as impossible as that may seem at times).

    Thanks for subscribing to my blog. It's a baby steps, but I'm learning more this way (by blogging as I go).

    And hey, guys are totally fine ;-)