March 23, 2009

Word of the Day: ฉิบหาย /chìp 'hǎay/

Word of the Day for Monday, March 23, 2009

ฉิบหาย /chìp 'hǎay/ v. to perish, be utterly ruined, destroyed; (slang) very, extremely.

In light of the recent parliamentary debate on this word, I think it deserves to be featured. Warning up front: be careful about using this word. If its use in parliament can derail their discussion for more than half an hour, then you know it packs some punch.

The use of ฉิบหาย can be traced to the Sukhothai era. The Wat Sri Chum (วัดศรีชุม) inscription, composed around the 14th century, includes the phrase บใหฉิบบใหหาย, or in modern spelling บ่ให้ฉิบ บ่ให้หาย. ฉิบ and หาย are actually synonyms, meaning to disappear or come to ruin. They appear again in a 1361 inscription in a similar context: บ่ใหเถิงทีฉิบหาย (modern: ให้ถึงที่ฉิบที่หาย).

The meaning I've discussed above is the traditional one. The much more common use these days is as slang. It's used as an intensifier, and generally considered rude.

For example, เบื่อฉิบหาย would mean something like, "I'm really bored." But many people would take it like, "I'm bored out of my f*ing gourd." It can be used to intensify positive things, too, as in เก่งฉิบหาย "really damn clever". But like I said, use with caution.

It's relatively common in Thai movies, and of course on the web. In these contexts, it's often spelled ชิบหาย or ชิปหาย, and pronounced with a high tone on the first syllable: /chíp 'hǎay/. Sometimes you'll also see self-censorship (like the use of asterisks in English): ฉิบห..., or similar.

I believe the stigma attached to the word must be fairly recent, and perhaps caused by the rise in prominence of the slang meaning. Just as กู and มึง were once normal, everyday words, today ฉิบหาย has been stigmatized as rude.

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