Do you know any good Thai jokes?
Thais often have a playful sense of humor, but Thai jokes can also be difficult to translate to English effectively. Many times they rooted in wordplay or puns, such as, ambiguous _____, homonyms or homographs.
rɯa gɑ̀p rót-fai chon gan jɑ̀ lɯ̌a ɑ̀-rai?
What’s left when a boat and a train collide?
Comments: The joke hinges on the word เหลือ [lɯ̌a], which means “left over” or “remaining”, but when combined with เชื่อ [chɯ̂a], to believe, it means “unbelievable”. What is unbelievable is that a boat and a train could be on a collision course. There’s wordplay involved.
- มีแก้วสิบใบเต็มไปด้วยน้ำ แก้วใบไหนมีน้ำน้อยที่สุด
mii gɛ̂ɛw sìp bai dtem bpai dûay nɑ́ɑm, gɛ̂ɛw bai nɑ̌i mii nɑ́ɑm nɔ́ɔy thîi sùt
There are ten glasses filled with water. Which glass has the least water?
gɛ̂ɛw bai thîi hòk
The sixth glass./The spilled glass.
Comments: This is a pretty straightforward play on the word หก [hòk], which has two meanings in Thai: six and spill. The joke is double-meaning wordplay.
Q: มีสิบคนยืนบนหน้าผา คนที่เท่าไหร่ตกหน้าผาตาย
mii sìp khon yɯɯn bon nɑ̂ɑ phɑ̌ɑ, khon thîi thɑ̂w rɑ̀i dtòk nɑ̂ɑ phɑ̌ɑ dtaay
Ten people are standing on a cliff. Which person fell off the cliff?
khon thîi gɑ̂ɑw
The ninth person./The person who took a step forward.
Comments: This is wordplay at its best, since it involves two homonyms that are not homographs (two words that sound alike but are written differently, a la “their/there” in English). The word for “nine” is เก้า [gɑ̂ɑw] and the word for “take a step” is ก้าว [gɑ̂ɑw], but they are both pronounced with a long vowel. Besides this, it’s also a play on the dual meaning of ที่ [thîi]. In this case, ที่เก้า [thîi-gɑ̂ɑw] means “ninth”, while ที่ก้าว [thîi-gɑ̂ɑw] means “who took a step forward”. In the first case it’s a noun marking the ordinal numbers; in the second case it’s a relative pronoun following the noun and preceding the verb. (This is also the case with the spilled glass joke.)
Even though these jokes don’t work in English translation, they can help you to understand how Thai humor works and I hope you enjoyed learning more about the Thai language through jokes.