Sunday, September 12, 2010

Annoying words and phrases heard in Cambodia

The Angelina Jolie Tree (ugh!)
Farang - 'Farang' is not a word general to Southeast Asia. It is a Thai word. Southeast Asia contains many countries, Thailand is but one of those countries, and each country has its own language. If you are going to use local lingo, use the lingo local to the country you are in. You're not in Pattaya anymore. In Cambodia, foreigners are 'barang.'

The Bodge - Duuuude, as cool as 'The Bodge' may seem rolling off the tongue, it just makes you sound like a pretentious wanker, much like that earring makes you look.

Kampuchea - 'Kampuchea' is the Khmer word for Cambodia. Pol Pot insisted the world say Kampuchea. 'Cambodia' is the English word for Cambodia. If you are speaking English, speak English. Saying 'Kampuchea' when you are speaking English doesn't make you sound in-the-know. It makes you sound like a Khmer Rouge sympathizer.

Yuon - For you Cambodians speaking English (or French,) a similar point. When you use 'yuon' when not speaking Khmer, your ugly implications are abundantly clear. If that is not your intent, when speaking English use the English word, Vietnamese.

'nom Penh - Dropping the 'p'  from Phnom Penh identifies you as having been in Cambodia about a month, just long enough to over-think it and get it wrong, which is probably not the image to are trying to project. In Romanized Khmer, 'ph' is neither said like an 'f' nor is it silent. It is pronounced like a 'p.' The city name is pronounced P'nom Penh.

The Penh - See 'The Bodge,' wanker.

The Angelina Jolie Tree - Iconic old tree towering from the ancient jungle-temple Ta Prohm, now reduced to a Hollywood cliché because it was in a big-name movie for a few seconds.

Maenamkhong, Ankor Vat, Pnum Pen, etc. - Archaic and foreign spellings and pronunciations say that you've done all your research on internet and/or never left your office in Phnom Penh.

"He bought her." - Employed by NGO types to add dark implications and a melodramatic flare when refering to a man who uses a prostitute. He did not 'buy her' any more than he bought the taxi driver who drove him to the bar. He purchased her services, not her.

clicks, Nam, ville, gook, etc. - The Vietnam War is over and you weren't there anyway. Distance is measured in kilometers, not 'clicks.' The country is Vietnam, not 'Nam.' A village is called a village, not a 'ville.' And 'gook' is just offensive.

LBFM - Why not just have 'SEX TOURIST' tattooed on your forehead?

Sustainability - NGO catch word of the decade. Formerly meant something like 'the capacity to endure,' but now designates all things good and PC, and as such has become all but meaningless.

War-torn Cambodia, emerging from war, haven for pedophiles, victims of the Khmer Rouge, jewel of Indochina, etc. - Tired old newspaper clichés from the 90s, still in use today. Journalists, if you're going to use clichés please write some new ones, preferably something up-to-date and relevant to today's Cambodia.

"I'm a volunteer." - No you're not. You're a pity tourist on a package holiday, likely on daddy's dime.

Have I insulted everyone?


  1. Each one of these is "spot on" as so many British (and variants) commonly say.

  2. I say the bodge... mostly on twitter. But, also in conversation at times. Can't help it. But agree on all other points, esp 'nom penh. And, Siem Ree-up. Just say Siem Reap folks.

  3. grrrrrreat! then again 'using a prostitute'?? what?

  4. Pol Pot wasn't the only guy to insist on using "Kampuchea." I'm fairly sure that was the country's official name from 1979-1989 as well.

    But yeah, using it in a modern context is weird. It'd be like calling the Democratic Republic of the Congo "Zaire," or Serbia "Yugoslavia."