It seems that catching up all at once on the weekends is my wont, so I’m going to embrace it and continue the practice.
In Thailand, everyone has a nickname. Everyone. Unlike Americans, where we might have a family nickname, and a friend nickname and we don’t introduce ourselves as such, these names are typically the only introduction I receive. Also, unlike American nicknames where the name most likely is just a shortened version of your actual name, Thai nicknames are purposely unrelated.
While I don’t know if it still holds true, historically the story is that giving a baby an unrelated nickname will distract the evil spirits from harming the newborn. Why would a spirit harm the “Bird”? Or what would a spirit have to do with “Yellow” over here? Thus, every Thai person has a formal name, given on their identification only (as far as I can tell), and a nickname that is used everywhere except the most formal of settings.
When I first started work, my coworkers struggled with “Megan”. The pronunciation in Thailand is usually either “Meegn” or “MeyGahn”. I don’t really mind, but I did offer that they could call me “Meg” instead. To which they replied, “But that’s the same name.”
Yesterday, one of my coworkers approached me again and said, for the life of her, she couldn’t comfortably pronounce my name. Could I tell her my nickname again? Unfortunately, she wasn’t much relieved by “Meg”, still wanting to say, “Mig” or “Mugh”.
Despite the awkwardness, we launched into a lengthy discussion of the meaning of her name and where it came from. It seems that while she and my boss both have a name which everyone uses, they are not the official nicknames their parents gave them. Pei Noa, my manager, was renamed by her friends because she was trying to teach them the traditional tribal language of the Moan, her ancestors. “Anoa” means grandmother, and “Noa” is the shortened version and has stuck for the last decade or two. Essentially, I call my manager, “Older Sister Grandma” when I properly call her Pei Noa.
My coworker received the nickname, “Boo” which is actually the name of a popular, obese comedian. I pointed out that she is NOT fat, but apparently she was when she was younger. It turns out that since you can be renicknamed, women especially hope that their name will be something especially feminine. Like, “Little Bird” or “Lilly”. My coworkers were not so lucky.
As we talked, she asked me what my name means. “Megan means ‘Mighty Spirit’ and Meg means ‘Pearl.'”
Rather ironically, this is what I wore yesterday:
Excitedly, Pei Boo explained that “Muk” is the much-desired, very feminine nickname meaning ‘Pearl’. She has christened me “Muk”: