The Bangkok Post and Abhisit’s stupid “bitch” remarksBy Bangkok Pundit Sep 16, 2013 10:00AM UTC
As a follow-up to last week’s post – please read that post for the context of exactly what Abhisit said in Thai – BP blogged:
First, there is an issue of how to translate “อีโง่” (or ee-ngo). โง่ is clearly stupid/dumb, but อี is more complicated to translate. It is a derogatory prefix used to insult girls. You can add อี in front of many Thai words and you get an insult. For example, in front of the word, skinny and you get ‘skinny bitch’ in front of the Thai word for ‘body’ and it becomes ‘prostitute, whore’, in front of the word flower and well you have an extremely grave insult meaning a whore etc. It is a strong insult plain and simple. Simply translating it as “woman” doesn’t really convey the meaning because woman is not an insult. If it was stupid woman, it would be (ผู้)หญิงโง่. This is an insult the same as calling someone stupid is in English. It is not a strong insult. Hence, BP thinks the closest approximation is “bitch” (Khao Sod use the term “bitch” in their translation as well).* Having said that “bitch” is probably a bit stronger than “อี”. It is probably at around 75% of the insult level of the English word “bitch”.
The context อีโง่ is a frequently used as a insult directed at Yingluck on social media. It is such a commonly used term by some government critics that if BP was to ever hear or read the sentence in Thai, ‘did you see what that stupid bitch said?’, that BP would not think it was referring to anyone else but Yingluck (just search the term อีโง่ and aside from this latest news, every single hit of the first 30 hits is a reference to Yingluck). It is such a common insult that Nat Bantadtan, Deputy Spokesperson of the Democrats, in May 2013 stated – just after Yingluck filed a lawsuit against the Thai Rath cartoonist – that the PM should get a team of lawyers to take action against google.com as when you type in the term “stupid bitch” then you get a large number images about Yingluck (นายกรัฐมนตรีควรตั้งทีมทนายความเพื่อดำเนินการกับเว็บไซต์ค้นหาข้อมูลชื่อดัง อย่าง www.google.com เนื่องจากเมื่อมีการพิมพ์ค้นหาคำว่า “อีโง่” ก็ทำให้พบกับภาพของ น.ส.ยิ่งลักษณ์ เป็นจำนวนมาก).
BP: In addition, on the Blue Sky (the Democrat’s unofficial TV Channel) Facebook page, there is one post linking to the video of Abhisit’s speech on August 7. The most liked comment (54 likes) is one which states “Everyone throughout the country calls [her] the stupid “bitch”. Why cause a problem for Khun Ahbisit? If you don’t want to be called a stupid ‘bitch’ then improve your brain so you will be smart in what you say and what you think. Smart so you can choose to do good, you stupid ‘bitch’” (ใครๆ เขาก็เรียกว่าอีโง่กันทั้งประเทศนั่นแหละ จะมาหาเรื่อง คุณอภิสิทธิ์ทำไม ไม่อยากให้เขาเรียกว่าอีโง่ ก็พัฒนาสมองให้มีความฉลาดพูด ฉลาดคิด ฉลาดเลือกที่จะทำดีน่อยสิ อีโง่).
Also, in May, a song appeared on YouTube entitled อีโง่ (or ee-ngo) which doesn’t directly name Yingluck but refers to the fact that if you search for อีโง่ and whose image do you get (the answer is Yingluck’s image – and the music video shows Yingluck’s image) and talks about the Thai Rath cartoonist, the leader of the country, and reds – this song was widely covered in the more virulent anti-Thaksin media such as ASTV Manager, Naew Na, and TNews.
BP: Is there any reasonable doubt who Abhisit was referring to, particularly by those who are strong critics of the government and who were attending the political rally in question?
The Bangkok Post initially translated it as “stupid lady” as per their headline on September 10 for their article “Abhisit under fire for ‘stupid lady’ jibe”, but the article states “stupid woman”:
Mr Suranand was responding to a controversial comment Mr Abhisit made during a rally on Saturday.
The Democrat leader had mentioned the launch of the “Smart Lady Thailand” reality show during the rally.
He questioned the merits of the reality show, presided over by Ms Yingluck. Mr Abhisit’s critics inferred from his comment that he was saying that if there was to be a stupid woman contest, then no one could compete with Ms Yingluck.
Veera in an op-ed in the Bangkok Post entitled “Abhisit shoots himself in the foot” and also on September 10 stated:
Specifically, during a rally held by the party at a Bangkok school on Saturday he made the remark “e ngoh”, a term which literally and very derogatively means an idiot, with the “e” an impolite reference to a woman, like “ai” for men.
…He explained that if there were a contest to find “e ngoh” (stupid women) then no one would enter the contest.” …
Whatever his denial, he clearly shot himself in the foot. He should be aware that the remark “e ngoh” is not supposed to be uttered in public by someone of his social and political standing.
As for whether the insult referred to Ms Yingluck or not, read his remarks and judge for yourself.
BP: Indeed, one of the points, particularly in comments made by people on the op-ed and also in social media, is that on the red stage similar things were said, but this misses the point on who said it. Just like when Deputy PM Plodprasob stated in May that protesters were like garbage, you not only needed to look at what was said, but who said it. If it hadn’t have been the Deputy PM, it would not have been such a big issue. However, because it was the Deputy PM, it was big issue and he was rightfully criticized. Calling Yingluck a stupid “bitch” is a much, much stronger insult than “garbage” as well. Similarly, because Abhisit made the comments and he is the former PM and the current opposition leader – as opposed to a random speaker on the stage at the Democrat rallies – it is a much bigger deal.
Although, BP thinks that Veera is inaccurate when he translates อี (ee) as “woman” at least he does explain that อี (ee) is an impolite term used for a woman and he also adds the transliteration so those who know Thai can understand what was actually said.
Ploenpote Atthakor in an op-ed on September 12 entitled “In this battle of semantics, we all lose”.* Key excerpts:
How to know if someone is stupid? This is not a trick question. Seriously, I really want to know.
I have been obsessed with this question after hearing the debate over the “stupid” jibe made by Abhisit Vejjajiva, leader of the Democrat Party, which instantly became the hottest topic in town.
The opposition leader played with the word _ an antonym of the word “smart” _ as he was mentioning the “Smart Lady” contest project that was launched earlier last week by prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
The mockery prompted Pheu Thai party members _ male and female _ to challenge the opposition leader, accusing him of insulting their leader who is known for her attractiveness.
Yet people around the prime minister still think it’s necessary to counter Mr Abhisit’s word, or words. In this case, they have twisted it into a gender issue, resulting in women quarrelling with each other.
I am not sure if they realise that such a reaction could only make the matter worse, much worse.
BP: As Veera’s op-ed notes, the use of the term อี (ee) means it was an insult directly aimed at females. How is this twisting it into a gender issue? She cannot even bring herself to criticize Abhisit either although she does criticize the opposition.
This criticism is also odd for another reason. Abhisit gave his speech on September 7, but it was not until September 10 that either the Bangkok Post or The Nation mentioned what Abhisit said. Both papers only referred to Abhisit’s comments in light of Suranand’s criticism. If Suranand hadn’t raised the issue, would the Bangkok Post or The Nation even bothered to have mentioned it?
Then an editorial on September 13 states:
For opposition women MPs to defend Mr Abhisit’s e-ngo or “dumb broad” remark simply shows they are totally blind to sexism and gender oppression.
However, a news article in the Post on September 13 states:
A noisy chorus erupted Thursday in parliament with ruling Pheu Thai MPs and opposition Democrat MPs trading barbs over Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva’s controversial “e-ngo” (dumb bitch) remark,…
Then Voranai in an op-ed on September 15:
The latest example is over the e-ngo (dumb bitch) comment made by the opposition leader. While it wasn’t a direct insult, anyone who has watched the video should know to what or to whom he was referring.
Yet, from Democrat MPs (even women) to ordinary Democrat tribal members, many are adamant and have a long list of excuses to justify the remark, as well as attempting to give the softest possible definition for e-ngo. There is no direct translation for the word, but rest assured the sentiment is ”dumb bitch”.
BP: Exactly. As mentioned above in the context, it seemed clear who Abhisit was referring to. The Democrats weren’t the only ones to give the softest possible definitions to e-ngo. It took a few days, but the Bangkok Post did finally get there…
btw, there are a few issues regarding the the commentary and reaction to Abhisit’s comments that could also cover, but Kaewmala’s post yesterday – which BP generally agrees with – covers most of the issues that BP was going to cover so see no need to duplicate them although in a separate post will also look at the Democrat Party’s strategy….
*Actually, that was not the oddest part of the op-ed by Ploenpote Atthakor. Another excerpt (after she does quite succinctly explain another insult directed at Yingluck by a Democrat spokesperson):
For those who still have no clue, raed, apart from being a name of the aggressive, large, thick-skinned animal, is an insulting word that was widely used in the early 1970s to describe a slut or a young woman who fails to behave. I have no idea if modern-day people still know this slang,
Maybe not, since I have never heard young people use it. Language evolves all the time.
By taking the raed mockery too seriously, the DSI has in effect revived this obsolete, almost forgotten term for wayward women. Some people may wonder what actions the prime minister has taken to deserve being referred to in such a way.
BP: Look the DSI is continuing its ridiculous overreach by even investigating the case, but raed (แรด) is not some obsolete, almost forgotten word. BP is a little speechless that she has not heard of its usage by “young people”. It is such a commonly used word and certainly hasn’t dropped out of usage. There was an R Siam song last year called “ชอบแรด” (which would perhaps translate as “like/like to raed”) which has around 3,300,000 views on YouTube (the video, like most R Siam songs, are aimed at the younger generation). In 2007, there was a movie starring Thailand’s leading comedian (Mum Jokmok) called คู่แรด. Seriously, she had not heard of recent usage of this word????
NOTE: Raed (แรด) is a difficult term to translate. It means a “rhino”. If you add อี (ee) to the front of it, it is somewhat akin to “slut” although not as strong, but without the อี (ee) it is a much weaker insult. Perhaps, you could say it is “slutty”, but it is even much milder than that. It refers to over-the-top behavior or dressing in a provocative manner by girls rather than a girl actually sleeping with a guy. When used as a verb, it colloquially more has the meaning of “let your hair down, going out and having fun” although when used as a noun, it depends on the context and particularly the tone of the voice on how big of an insult it is.