Friday, May 15, 2009

Acronym mania

Like in other cultures, Thai also like to abbreviate things and use acronyms a lot, especially with the sometime long and complicate names in the administration. But what is special is the custom to abbreviate the English translations as well, or even create only an English term and abbreviate it then.

The whole thing already starts with something simple like postal address. These consist of the name of province, district, subdistrict and village, but instead of the Thai words for these administrative levels one usually sees just the first letter. And even more, the central district named "Mueang" with the province name is shortened to just "Mueang". And even the short word Muban gets shortened to just Mu. One simple example:
จ.สุราษฎร์ธานีจังหวัดสุราษฎร์ธานีSurat Thani province
อ.เมืองอำเภอเมืองสุราษฎร์ธานีMueang Surat Thani district
ต.บางใบไม้ตำบลบางใบไม้Bang Bai Mai subdistrict
หมู่ที่ 1หมู่บ้านที่ 1Village 1
Which is the address of the Tambon (Subdistrict) administrative organization (TAO or SAO) of the subdistrict. In Thai this is abbreviated อบต., short for องค์การบริหารส่วนตำบล. It's not only abbreviated in written texts, also when talking about this office it's simply O Bo To. Sometimes in the URL of websites this is also romanized as ABT.

Very similar is the abbreviation for the higher level of local administration, the Provincial administrative organization. In English it's PAO, in Thai อบจ., short for องค์การบริหารส่วนจังหวัด. Or the term to cover all the local administrative units อปท. (องค์กรปกครองส่วนท้องถิ่น).

But the acronyms even more interesting are those which come into Thai via English. The most famous one is of course OTOP for One Tambon One Product, the project to give locally produced articles a better marketing. Since to listen is the corresponding podcast of the language guy. Here an English acronym for a Thai project kind of became a word on its own in Thai now.

Another example, much less famous, is the Small Medium Large (SML) village fund project. Once one of the populist project of form prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, it was still active last year, though somewhat remodeled in the meantime. The DOPA (Department of Provincial Administration) still has the project website online. In fact, the Thai name for this project โครงการพัฒนาศักยภาพของหมู่บ้านและชุมชน (system of development possibilities of villages and communities) does not have any small, medium or large in it anymore.

For a fun-read on acronyms there's this nice satire by Matt, formerly in Thailand and now on Timor-Leste.

1 comment:

Nils said...

In addition to OTOP and SML, the expression SME (Small and Medium Enterprises) is also quite common in Thai language, as is NIDA (National Institute for Development Administration), which has even named an intersection after it (yaek nida) at its location in Bangkapi. There's also an S.A.B. intersection in Chinatown (Chakkrawat and Charoenkrung Roads?) (yaek es ae bi), though I have no idea what it refers to.