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meaning of farang


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I've always wondered where the word farang comes from. Now the wool has been pulled from my eyes.

The French, who of course colonised Vietnam and Cambodia, were among the first Europeans to be seen en masse in the region.

The Thai pronunciation of Francais was what they now call Frenchies - Farang-Sayt.

And farang is a shortening of that, according to a Thai I know.

Has anyone heard a different/more plausible explanation?

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Ii quote Soc.cult.thai language FAC:

From: Gwyn Williams

Date: 29 Mar 1994 04:24:21 +1000


A wide-spread belief in Thailand is that the word "farang" (Caucasian)

is derived from the French word "francais". This derivation is implausible

on phonetic and historical grounds. It is in fact a popular misconception.

It is true, however, that these words have the same ultimate source.

The word is attested in various forms in languages in Europe, Africa,

the Middle East, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. It is clear that the

word orginated as "Frank" in Europe and spread eastwards along Muslim

trade routes.

Thai most likely borrowed the word from influential Muslim Persian or

Indian traders in the 17th century or even earlier. The Persian word was

"farangg". The term probably was used to refer to early Portuguese

traders and subsequently to all Europeans (ie., non-Muslims).

It is possible that the Thai word "farangset" ("French") is a blend

of the word "farang" and the French word "francais", ie., "farangset" is

actually derived from "farang", not vice versa. Certainly, the word

"farang" existed prior to, and independently of, "farangset".

The following is an edited collection of discussions on the origin of

the Thai word "farang". PART 1 includes the initial discussion on

soc.culture.thai (PART 1). I forwarded the topic to LINGUIST LIST for

information on the word in other languages (PART 2).

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Just the Asian, Thai, and particularly Bangkok Thai, habit of pronouncing r as l. For instance, we spell the Thai word for what as arai. However most Bangkok Thais will pronounce it as alai. We write farang, they pronounce it falang.

Like that old gag about the guy who goes to the Chinese restaurant and calls over the chef and says "Hey, pal, this chicken is rubbery". Chef replies "Grad you rike it." BOOM TISH!!!!

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Originally posted by teacherwannabe:

Sometimes, I see "farang" spelled "falang." Is this a typing mistake, or am I missing something?

Bangkok Thais have the tendency to pronounce the r in many words as l. The writing and the correct pronunciation demands 'farang', but it is often pronounces as 'falang' and subsequently I guess also written so.

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Hi Teach.

The word is definately 'farang'. Spelt ฟรั่ง in thai script the 'ร 'being the thai equivalent character for the english 'r'. Having said that however you will hear many,many thai say 'falang' instead of 'farang', 'aloi mak' instead of 'aroi mak' or 'tamluat' instead of 'tamruat'. The spoken word occassional gets written incorrectly as a result of this incorrect pronunciation.

I asked my language teacher (a Chula trained linguist) about this. Her reply and I quote " uneducated thai too stupid/lazy to pronounce 'r' correctly - if you do same I fail you" !!!

Cheers Hall.

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the word Frank is strongly related to the word francais, compare Lingua franca. In Swedish France is Frankrike and in Danish Frankrig - 'rike' and 'rig' (same as German reich - Frankreich by the way) realm - Frankrike = realm of the Franks; a Germanic/Teutonic people living in France and Franken (Franconia).


elef crazy.gif" border="0

Language board?

[ July 19, 2001: Message edited by: elef ]

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I know that you may have quoted a web expert but I think that the possibility of Farang being derived from Francais is not so implausible.

Quite often Thais will insert a vowel between consonants to make a word easier to say, eg sprite becomes saparite. It's not such a massive leap of faith for francais to become farancais to become faranca to become farang etc.

But what do I know?

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Originally posted by hall:

'I asked my language teacher (a Chula trained linguist) about this. Her reply and I quote " uneducated thai too stupid/lazy to pronounce 'r' correctly ..."'

True indeed. It's the same with "khrap" which is a bit awkward to pronounce for Thais, so they drop the r and it becomes "khap".

(I believe an earlier pronounciation is "kharap" and I've heard one or the other super-traditionalist pronounce it that way.)

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