Chula’s Marching Song: John Brown’s Body. Thai Style

John Brown's Body. Thai Style

This article was originally posted on WomenLearnThai.com.

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John Brown’s Body. Thai Style…

When Chula University’s marching video (shown below) hit twitter I was gobsmacked. My initial response was: “Words can’t describe how I feel watching that video…” I guess I just wasn’t sure if the parody was intentional or not.

On first impression I thought of the powerful USSR propaganda posters. But… not quite. On Facebook a friend mentioned the Chinese Revolution. Possible. But in the end, even though the three are similar, I’m thinking that the North Korean propaganda machine comes the closest.

Whatever the intended flavour, Chula is using a proven marketing style.

And USSR, Chinese Revolution, and North Korean propaganda aside, I went to bed Friday night with เดิน เดิน /dern dern/! rolling around my head. Yes, Chula’s marching video grew on me.

Translating Chula’s marching marketing video…

A great way to learn the Thai language is to translate Thai songs. Which I have. But as I’m sometimes clunky at translating Thai please leave any corrections, suggestions, and comments in the… comments. Trust me, I won’t mind (I welcome the help).

But before we get there… Chula’s video is sung to the tune of a popular American marching song from the American Civil War, John Brown’s Body. If you remember, the lyrics go like this:

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John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave, mouldering in the grave, mouldering in the grave. John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave, his soul is marching on!

So now that you have the tune dancing in your head… here we go…

เดิน เดิน เถิด เรา /dern dern tèrt rao/
walk walk let us…

นิสิต มหาจุฬาลงกรณ์ /ní-sìt má-hăa-jù-laa-long-gon/
…uni students Chulalongkorn University.

Let’s march, march, students of Chulalongkorn University.

เดิน เดิน พร้อมหน้า /dern dern próm-nâa/
walk walk all together…

เพื่อ นำ ชัย มา จุฬาลงกรณ์ /pêua nam chai maa jù-laa-long-gon/
…in order to bring victory to Chulalongkorn

March, march, all together, in order to bring victory to Chulalongkorn.

ชโย ชโย จุฬาฯ /chá-yoh chá-yoh jù-laa/
hurray hurray Chula…

สถาน ศึกษา สง่า พระนาม /sà-tăan sèuk-săa sà-ngàa prá naam
…place education elegant royal name

Hurray, hurray, Chula, the elegant education place with a royal name.

ใคร จะ หยาม เกียรติ จุฬาฯ /krai jà yăam gia rá-dtì jù-laa/
anyone will look down the honour Chula…

เรา อย่า ยอม เรา อย่า ยอม /rao yàa yom rao yàa yom/
…we don’t allow we don’t allow.

Anyone who looks down on Chula’s honour, we don’t allow, we don’t allow.

เชียร์ เถิด เรา เชียร์ ให้ /chia tèrt rao chia hâi/
cheer let us cheer to…

ชิง ด้วย น้ำใจ เป็น นักกีฬา /ching dûay nám-jai bpen nák-gee-laa/
…compete with spirit be sportsmen

Let’s cheer to encourage the spirit of sportsmen.

เชียร์ เถิด เรา เชียร์ ให้ /chia tèrt rao chia hâi/
cheer let us cheer to…

บำรุง น้ำใจ พวกเรา จุฬาฯ /bam-rung nám-jai pûak-rao jù-laa/
…encourage spirit us Chula

Let’s cheer to encourage Chula’s spirit.

พลี เถิด พลี กาย พร้อม /plee tèrt plee gaai próm/
sacrifice please sacrifice body together…

เลือด เนื้อ เรา ยอม ยก ให้ จุฬาฯ /lêuat néua rao yom yók hâi jù-laa/
…blood fresh we allow give to Chula.

Everyone together, sacrifice to devote our bodies and minds to Chula.

จง มุ่งหน้า พา เอา ชัย /jong mûng-nâa paa ao chai/
do forward bring get victory…

ให้ จุฬาฯ ให้ จุฬาฯ /hâi jù-laa hâi jù-laa/
…to give Chula to give Chula.

Let’s go forward to bring victory for Chula, for Chula.

And in case you missed it, it won’t hurt my feelings if you leave corrections or suggestions in the comments below.

And now for the chorus in English…

The English is where Chula runs smack into a problem that comes with dictionary plucking.

I totally sympathise. Choosing the right word from a foreign dictionary is the bane of my life too! A word that had one meaning years ago will sometimes change over time, so unless you are a native, it’s often missed.

Chula’s English chorus:

March march along we sing a song we sing so gay.
March march along we sing a song for C.U. way.
C.U. will win again just as the same as previous day.
We will sing C.U. Will win! Will win!

The word in question is ‘gay’. And while generations of westerners have grown up knowing that gay no longer means lighthearted and carefree, the rest of the world might not have noticed.

Oxford Dictionary: Gay meaning ‘homosexual,’ dating back to the 1930s (if not earlier), became established in the 1960s as the term preferred by homosexual men to describe themselves. It is now the standard accepted term throughout the English-speaking world. As a result, the centuries-old other senses of gay meaning either ‘carefree’ or ‘bright and showy,’ once common in speech and literature, are much less frequent.

The word gay cannot be readily used unselfconsciously today in these older senses without sounding old-fashioned or arousing a sense of double entendre, despite concerted attempts by some to keep them alive. Gay in its modern sense typically refers to men (lesbian being the standard term for homosexual women), but in some contexts it can be used of both men and women.

When I discussed this subject with a Thai friend she didn’t understand the problem because to her, gay didn’t mean, well, gay.

As I was curious, I asked what Thai words started out with one meaning 40 years ago, yet have a totally different connotation today. I’ll save her answer for a different post but if you have any of note, please leave them in the comments.

Truthfully, I’m looking forward to coming Chula videos. Chula has the means and the talent, that’s for sure. And Chula, if you are reading, please pass my kudos to your talented performers.

BTW: Chula also has a wonderful C U Polka Boom Boom video. It also uses a few words that are not quite right but the energy and talent is there!

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