This article was originally posted on WomenLearnThai.com.
Is there a Christopher G Moore in the house?…
I created Women Learn Thai not just to take on the language, but to study the history and culture of all things Thai.
For research (especially living in a city the size of Bangkok), the Internet is a jewel. But being old-fashioned, my first choice will always be books. And when I need to source a lot of books at once, I go for secondhand over new.
For my first trip for WLT, Dasa Book Cafe was it. Just inside the door beyond the tea tables, the Thai section. A mix of facts, personal experience and fiction.
On the drive over, my Canadian buddy Lynn admitted a firm fiction focus. Christopher G Moore. Famous, proliferate, Bangkok-based, Canadian. She drooled.
So while she headed for Spirit House and the Smile series, I detoured towards Reflections on Thai Culture (William J Knausner), Thailand, a Short History (David K Wyatt), and Bangkok (William Warren).
That was then. This is now. And now (saving Dasa for afters), it was quick-like into a taxi and over to Siam Paragon for a plastic wrapped copy of Heart Talk, by none other than Lynn’s Christopher G Moore.
Thai heart Thai identity…
When I first read the title, I thought “oh, no, not another book about the steamy side of Thailand!”. Which was soon followed by, “wait a second, I LIKE sex!”…
But Heart Talk is not pillow talk. That’s right. A jai does not sexy make.
In the Thai language the heart is the centre of thinking, feeling, shaping our moods, nurturing our spirit, bonding us to friends and family. The outline of what it is to move about in the home, office, and society can’t be detached from the idea of jai.
Another feature is the reversal of order in certain expressions. Thus jai dee (good heart) refers to the nature of a good-hearted person while dee jai (glad heart) refers to the emotional state of gladness. In a number of cases, the switch can turn a negative feeling into a good personality trait. For example, òn jai (worn-out heart) means weary-minded, while jai òn (soft heart) refers to someone who goes out of their way to help others.
A cause for Heart Talk…
When I decided to feature Heart Talk, I searched the web for available resources (and found more than a few). When I mentioned my mini-project to Christopher, he advised to take care.
Checking through my growing spreadsheet, I compared my finds with Heart Talk and I had to agree. Learning heart words without realising the nuances could get you into difficulties with the language. And difficulties, I can do without.
Some jai expressions are descriptive of the nature of a person. For example, a person with an impatient nature is jai rón (hot heart) and a person with a sensitive, touchy nature is nói jai (touchy heart).
Other times a phrase is connected with an emotional state and not necessarily the nature of the person experiencing the emotion. Thus a feeling of panic translates as jai túm túm dtòm dtòm (panic heart).
A similar mistake is to use our western mindset in a Thai world. For instance, look at เย็นใจ (yen jai). เย็น (yen) = cold, while ใจ (jai) = heart (or mind). As a westerner, I jumped to the conclusion that a cold heart is a negative and a hot heart is well, sexy. Wrong. In Thailand, a hot heart is a negative and a cold heart is a positive.
Comfortable Heart สบายใจ (sà-baai jai) เย็นใจ (yen jai): You have entered a state of feeling perfectly in tune with yourself emotionally or a state of comfort and pleasantness. You feel comfortable inside yourself and with those around you; there is an inner peace and sense of calm.
Another mistake beginners (as in myself) often make is to take on Thai words or word units without learning how they fit into a sentence.
Be a little careful about picking new words out of the vocabulary and using them. If they are nouns you can’t go far wrong as in most cases any one noun can be substituted for another but adjectives, adverbs, prepositions and verbs are very often used in certain contexts only and if you use them wrongly you will not be understood.
And that’s an additional plus of Heart Talk. Each heart word is clarified as being either adverb, adjective, verb, or noun. Tricky stuff. So the heart of this advice? Be free with nouns, but check before using others.
The nouns of Heart Talk…
In Heart Talk there are 60+ nouns. With Christopher’s permission I’ve recorded around half that number. The descriptions are inspired (and at times direct) from HT the book. The voice is all น้ำใจ Niwat.
Inspiration Heart (p28)
raang ban-daan jai
Inspirational. Includes emotional support, guidance, insight and knowledge conveyed to others.
Water Heart (p67)
Someone who is considerate.
Broad Heart (p77)
náam jai an gwâang-kwăang
A generous and unselfish person.
True Essence of the Heart (p84)
náam săi jai jing
A person who helps without expecting a return.
Egocentric Heart (p94)
chôp tam dtaam am-per jai
A self-centred or egocentric person.
Devil in One’s Heart (p121)
Someone who destroys the love existing between people.
CHARACTER OF THE HEART
Emotional State of the Heart (p131)
Uncaring person (lack of compassion or sensitivity).
In the context of a person’s personality or natural disposition. Or the emotional reaction to a person or event.
Mind and Spirit Heart (p157)
A mental state inside your head or heart.
Life, Mind and Spirit Heart (p157)
chee-wít jìt jai
This is my favourite. The idea is that people have value and are entitled to be treated with respect and regard.
Understanding Heart (p158)
jai kăo jai rao
Understand another as you understand yourself.
Thoughts inside the Heart (p165)
kwaam nai jai
Thoughts you keep to yourself.
Beloved Heart (p168)
The bonds of love between mother and child.
Eye of the Heart (p169)
duang dtaa duang jai
The object of your love and affection (husband, wife, sometimes child).
Star of the Heart (p169)
A child is the star of the parents.
Star of the Heart (p169)
Ditto, the child is the centre (star) of a parent’s heart.
COMMUNITY AND SOLIDARITY
Power of the Heart (p190)
The feeling that comes from communal sharing.
Confederate Heart (p191)
pôo rûam jai
A strong, intimate bond between people intune to each other.
Seduction Machine of the Heart (p193)
krêuang lôr jai
Describes the drive some people have for material things.
Power of the Heart (p194)
The sense of spirit or encouragement to complete a task, to accomplish something.
Good Friend Heart (p198)
pêuan rûam jai
A close friend (soulmate).
Refuge of the Heart (p200)
têe pêung taang jai
Where you find refuge (amulets, religion, politics, people).
RESPONSIBILITY AND THE FAMILY
Centre Heart (p208)
The object at the centre of something. For location, it could be a street or building. For people, parents or children could apply.
Geographic Centre Heart (p208)
The centre of a country is jai meuang.
Geographic Centre Heart (p208)
jai glaang meuang
The centre of a city is jai glaang meuang.
Truth in the Heart (p246)
kwaam jing jai
Someone sincere in words and actions.
The Heart of the Matter (p248)
The meaning, substance or gist of the matter in question.
The Heart of the Matter (p248)
kôr yài jai kwaam
Ditto in being the substance or gist of the matter in question.
Where to buy Heart Talk…
If you live in Thailand, you can pick up Heart Talk at most bookstores with English on offer (in BKK, Asia Books and the lovely Kinokuniya Bookstore come to mind). If not, the amazon is a sure bet.
Where to find Christopher G Moore…
Christopher G Moore official website
Christopher G Moore’s blog
Christopher G Moore on WordPress
Christopher G Moore on Facebook
Heart talk heart word resources…
Benjawan Poomsan Becker’s Speak Like a Thai Volume 4: Heart Words
learningthai.com (offline for now): The Heart Words, also from the book Hearts (possibly out of print).
thai2english.com: ใจ – jai – Thai / English Dictionary
YouTube: Bebe son kam waa rak Teaches words about love (English Sub)
Note: The Thai transliteration has been adjusted for consistency.
A special thanks goes to: Christopher for giving permission and advice, to Niwat for his voice, and to Jessi for sending over more heart words (coming in a later post).
8 thoughts on “Heart Talk (Say What You Feel in Thai) by Christopher G Moore”
Scott – thanks for your experience with your Thai family. I might just compile instances to see if I can get a better handle on greng jai.
Jessi – Thanks for the tag! I won’t be able to reciprocate as I’m on holiday with a house full of little ones. They sure are a handful 🙂
Do you know that you’ve been tagged!! See my blog or Janet Brown’s blog.
I am similarly unclear about greng jai. Here’s a story from a few days ago that might help a bit:
My Thai niece and nephew (age 11 and 10) stayed with my wife and I for a few weeks while their parents were on vacation. I ordered some food for them and after it arrived I got out plates, silverware, etc. for them. After a while I noticed that they didn’t have anything to drink so I asked them if they wanted me to get them something. They replied “no thank you” so I went back to the computer. I looked over a few minutes later and one of them had gone to the fridge to get a couple sodas.
Later, I asked my daughter about this and she said “that’s greng jai”. Unfortunately her English isn’t good enough to give me a detailed explanation.
My guess is that since I am older than them and they are staying in my condo, they don’t consider it to be proper etiquette for me to be serving them if they can do it themselves.
rikker – Great post. And as usual, you made an important point (one I neglected to add to mine…)
“Remember, ใจ- at the beginning of a compound usually indicates a personality trait (as in ใจดี or ใจแคบ), while -ใจ at the end of a compound is usually a temporary emotional state (as in ดีใจ or เสียใจ).”
Amy – When I created a list of ‘must have’ books on Thailand, I included Heart Words because I felt the same as you, that it’s an important element in Thai culture.
There’s a discussion on the Thaivisa forum on greng jai. There was no real agreement on what it meant so I asked my Thai teacher. I’m still not convinced one way or the other on the real meaning as I believe it’ll take personal experience to understand in depth. I have time…
I purchased this book a few years ago just to get a better idea of the Thai culture, since language and culture are so intertwined. I enjoyed it immensely and while it didn’t necessarily help me with my Thai langauge, I still learnt a lot. The whole greng jai is the hardest and most influential.
That’s an interesting coincidence. I made a post this evening about obsolete “heart words” in Dan Beach Bradley’s 1873 Thai dictionary. Then I come home and read your post. Small world.
Christopher has documented almost 750 heart words. That’s a lot of heart.
I looked in the index of Heart Talk and couldn’t find วัดใจ (wat-jai). It’s a lovely word so I’m sure Chris would like to know about it.
Oh my god!! I’ve just realised my language has so many Jais in it.
One Jai word pops up in my mind now is วัดใจ (wat-jai) or measuring heart. It means to see how generous or brave the other person is. Let’s see if there’s วัดใจ in heart talk and what’s the meaning of it.