Idiom of the Day



Transliteration: “To work oneself into a screw”, “to become crooked from hard work”

Meaning: To work so hard that it exhausts you

English Equivalent: “Burning the midnight oil”, “working my tail off”



Can You Repeat That, Please?

Did you know that Bangkok, Thailand’s official name is “Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasi”. Translations vary, but here is one from Encyclopedia Britannica: City of Gods, The Great City, the Residence of the Emerald Buddha, the Impregnable City of Ayutthaya of God Indra, the Great Capital of the World Endowed with Nine Precious Gems, the Happy City Abounding in Enormous Royal Palaces which Resemble the Heavenly Abode Wherein Dwell the Reincarnated Gods, a City Given by Indra and Built by Vishnukarm (Sources: Encyclopedia Britannica,CNN). Thai singers have written numerous songs to make the recitation easier, and there are even competitions to see who can recite the name most accurately and quickly.

Check out These 10 Superstitions From Asia!

In current times, many people avoid tradition and folklore in lieu of scientific evidence. While some superstitions may seem far-fetched or are rarely practiced, such as avoiding black cats or not rinsing your hair on exam day, these beliefs do offer insight into the history and traditions of different cultures. Check out these 10 cool superstitions from Asia, and please post any other superstitions (with country of origin) in the comment section below!

1.      The word “four” (si) in Chinese is considered unlucky, because if it is pronounced with a different tone, it means “death”  (Source: personal knowledge). The number 8 is considered a very lucky number, because its pronunciation is similar to the word for “lucky” or “fortunate”. In 2003, Sichuan airlines paid 2.3 million yuan in order to reserve the auspicious telephone number 8888-8888 (Source: Economic Times)


2.      In some parts of Bhutan, it is considered ill-fortune to sell needles or other sharp, pointy objects after sunset  because it will either shorten your life or cause a dispute (Bhutan Majestic Travel)

3.      If they awake from a bad dream, some Georgians will not speak to anyone until they have brushed their teeth. This is so that the badness from the dream can be cleaned away and the dream will not come true (Falkor ICY)


4.      Among the Sinhalese (an ethnic group that compromise about ¾ of Sri Lanka’s population) tt was once popular practice for the new born to be feed golden milk. Here, one would gently grind part of a golden object (such as jewelry) and then mix it with a mother’s breast milk. At a predetermined auspicious time, this is put on the baby’s tongue so that it will prevent disease and ensure a long life ( Folklore and Folkloristics)

5.      The name of the popular Kit Kat chocolate bar is similar to the Japanese phrase for “you will definitely succeed” ( “kitto katsu”). As such, many students will take a Kit Kat bar to a major exam for good luck, or eat one right before the exam starts. Due to its high popularity in Japan, there are over 80 flavors of Kit Kat available (source: Modern Tokyo Times)

6.      In Singapore, individuals may knock on the door of an unoccupied room before entering, so that they will not disturb any spirits that entered the room while they were gone ( Inquirer Lifestyles)


7.      It was once in poor taste to compliment babies in Thailand. It was believed that if you said a baby was adorable or lovable, evil spirits would harm the baby or take him away from his parents. Instead, you should remark on the baby’s poor looks and demeanor, so that the parents could keep the child and evil spirits would look elsewhere. To further ensure the baby’s safety, family members wold give children unsavory nicknames, such as “Pig” or “Fat”(Source: Chiang Mai City News)


8.      Some believe that if you meet a girl carrying a bucket of water or firewood on her back while you are on a journey of some kind, your mission will be successful. Some Bhutanese consider this to be a bad omen, and will immediately turn back if they encounter the girl (Bhutan: Ways of Knowing)


9.      For some Laotians, putting a sharp knife underneath your bed will keep away bad dreams and malevolent spirits (Southeast Asia Resource Action Center)


10.  Some Koreans refuse to wash their hair on the day of an important exam or presentation, as they fear it may rinse out important information and memories for the test (TOPICS Online Magazine)

Are You Looking for Summer Fun? Study Thai!

For linguahiles in search of a challenge this summer, the Thai language may just be what you are searching for. Thai uses 66 letters – 44 consonants, 18 vowels, and 4 tone marks – in addition to five tones to distinguish words – rising, falling, low, mid, high.  Written Thai does not utilize spaces between words; there is no standardized  means of spelling (vowels can be written before, after, on top of, or below the consonant that they are paired with); and phonetic transliteration into English is not standard and can be misleading/incorrect at times. Most Thai citizens speak Central Thai, but there are numerous dialects found in the country, along with different registers that are mandated by one’s audience and context.

However, some aspects of the Thai language can be quite easy for English heritage speakers. For example, Thai follows the Subject-Object-Verb sentence structure, as in English. Moreover, Thai words are not influenced with aspects such as gender, case, number or tense. If Thai speakers wish to discuss time, quantifiable amounts, etc. they will use time words, number words, and additional words and morphemes (a morpheme the smallest aspect of a language that maintains a meaning and/or grammatical purpose) to convey ideas such as number or tense.

 If you want to learn more about Thai language and culture, the sites listed below are an excellent start:

Northern Illinois University: