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Addressing people of different ages and genders

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Addressing people of different ages and genders

Postby John » Sun May 14, 2017 5:50 pm

My question has to do with how to address people of different ages and genders in Thai?

How do I address young men and women on a casual basis? How about people of my own age (65)? When is someone considered an equal? How about when to use or not use "น้อง", "พี่" and "คุณ" ?
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Re: Addressing people of different ages and genders

Postby David and Bui » Mon May 15, 2017 1:20 am

Here's one idea. Once you reach a certain age (and I think you are there already) youngsters you know or who are children of friends or relatives, you may address as "ลูก" (luuk[F]). This addressing as "child" shows that you feel a familial relationship to them which bespeaks warmth.

They, then, are likely to address you as "คุณตา" (grandfather) or even "คุณทวด" (great-grandfather).

Personally, I have never gotten used to the terms "มิสเตอร์" (Mister) or "ปาป้า" (Papa).
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Re: Addressing people of different ages and genders

Postby John » Mon May 15, 2017 5:00 am

My specific concern is how to address one particular young lady in her 20's who I got acquainted with on one of my mission trips. She is married and has a child. She addressed my as "คุณหมอ". "ลูก" seems a little odd to me now that she has a family.
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Re: Addressing people of different ages and genders

Postby David and Bui » Mon May 15, 2017 6:22 am

Ah, I see. I think the form of address depends on both the age and relationship of the person being addressed. You can take your cue from what the other person call you. She calls you "คุณหมอ" as a sign of professional and personal respect. If she is the age of your daughter or what your daughter would be, you may still address her as ลูก despite the fact that she is married and has a child. We have several former scholarships students we call "ลูก" despite the fact they are older and have children.

Seems to me that "น้อง" may be appropriate for someone her mother's age. My recommendation would be to ask the young lady herself how she should be addressed. Thais are very sensitive to these relationships and she would be the best judge of what she should be called.
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Re: Addressing people of different ages and genders

Postby John » Tue May 16, 2017 4:00 am

Thank you David. I have appreciated the endearing way Thais address me and each other.
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Re: Addressing people of different ages and genders

Postby bifftastic » Tue May 16, 2017 7:46 pm

How does she refer to herself when she speaks to you?
There will be a clue there as to how you should refer to her :)

This whole thing is quite complex, Thai people themselves spend a lot of time discussing it.

For instance, my wife's older sister is younger than me, so is her husband (both by about two years), however, they are both พี่ because they're older than my wife! She also refers to the son of a different older sister as พี่ (usually when she's not particularly happy with him) even though he's nine years old!

The personal pronoun phenomenon in Thai is fascinating, and I think to describe it as extremely complicated is an understatement.
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