This article was originally posted on WomenLearnThai.com.
A Sticky Problem…
I was reading one of those Thai expat blogs recently when I came across someone discussing the Thai word for “stingy” (seems like his girlfriend uses this word with him often). To add a little humor to his blog he did a direct translation of the Thai word for “stingy”, ขี้เหนียว /kêe-nǐeow/. ขี้ /kêe/ means “sh!t” he said and เหนียว /nǐeow/ means “sticky”. So, according to him, his girlfriend was calling him “sticky sh!t”. Good try. But the blogger, like Rick was about the “waters” of Casablanca, has been misinformed.
The problem our blogger (and many expats) have with this interesting little word is that they have learned only one definition of the word ขี้ /kêe/. Since one of the definitions really is “feces or excrement”, many people think that all uses of this word have a connection with this meaning. But this little word, the root of dozens of good polite Thai words, is a little more robust than that.
The following are the three basic definitions of ขี้ /kêe/:
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Waste product; feces; excrement
Characterized by, given to, having the quality of
Indicates a bad or negative character trait
Here are a number of words using ขี้ /kêe/, none of which are off-color, and none having anything to do with “sticky sh!t”. Note that the meanings of a lot of the words using ขี้ /kêe/ are exactly the same as their roots. The prefix just adds a bit of feeling (usually negative as in Category 3) to the word. I have split the words into categories depending on which Category of ขี้ /kêe/ the word falls under.
Category 1: Waste product; feces; excrement…
ขี้กบ /kêe gòp/ – wood shavings (กบ: capenter’s plane, also frog)
ขี้กบ: the waste product from a carpenter’s plane, wood shavings, or literally frog droppings.
ขี้เขม่า /kêe kà-mào/ – soot (เขม่า: soot)
ขี้โคลน /kêe klohn/ – muck; mud; grime (โคลน: mud)
ขี้ตา /kêe dtaa/ – eye snot; eye secretion (ตา: eye)
ขี้เถ้า /kêe táo/ – ash (เถ้า: ashes, cinder)
ขี้บุหรี่ /kêe bù~rèe/ – cigarette ash (บุหรี่: cigarette)
ขี้ผึ้ง /kêe pêung/ – beeswax (ผึ้ง: bee)
ขี้ฝุ่น /kêe fùn/ – dust; dirt (ฝุ่น: dust, powder, fine particles)
ขี้มูก /kêe mûk/ – snot; mucus; boogers (มูก: mucus)
ขี้ยางลบ /kêe yaang-lóp/ – eraser shavings (ยางลบ: eraser, rubber)
ขี้รังแค /kêe rang-kae/ – dandruff (รังแค: dandruff)
ขี้เลื่อย /kêe lêuay/ – sawdust (เลื่อย: saw)
Category 2: Characterized by, given to, having the quality of…
ขี้โกง /kêe gohng/ – deceitful; cheating; crooked (โกง: to cheat)
ขี้โกง: having a cheating quality, deceitful
ขี้กลัว /kêe glua/ – always afraid, “scaredy cat” (กลัว: afraid, fear)
ขี้เกียจ /kêe giàt/ – lazy (เกียจ: idle, inactive)
ขี้ขโมย /kêe kà~moi/ – thieving; pilfering (ขโมย: to steal)
ขี้ขลาด /kêe klàat/ – cowardly (ขลาด: fearful)
ขี้เหนียว /kêe nǐeow/ – stingy (เหนียว: sticky, tough)
ขี้คุก /kêe kúk/- jailbird; prison inmate (คุก: jail, prison)
ขี้คุย /kêe kui/ – boastful (คุย: chat, speak)
ขี้งอน /kêe ngawn/ – peevish; petulant; churlish; fractious (งอน: to pout, sulk)
ขี้แง /kêe ngae/ – whiny; [is a] crybaby (แง: whine)
ขี้ใจน้อย /kêe jai nói/ – over sensitive (ใจน้อย: easily offended, sensitive)
ขี้บ่น /kêe bòn/ – complainer; nagging (บ่น: to complain)
ขี้เมา /kêe mâo/ – drunkard; drunken; very drunk; often drunk (เมา: drunk)
ขี้โมโห /kêe moh-hǒh/ – resentful; easily mad; irritable (โมโห: angry)
ขี้แย /kêe yae/ – given to crying; crybaby (แย: whimsical)
ขี้โรค /kêe rôhk/ – sickly; frail; weak; ailing (โรค: disease)
ขี้ลืม /kêe leum/ – absent minded; forgetful (ลืม: forget)
ขี้เล่น /kêe lên/ – playful; joking (เล่น: play)
ขี้อาย /kêe aai/ – shy; feel shy; is shy; timid (อาย: shy, ashamed)
ขี้อิจฉา /kêe ìt-chǎa/ – envious, jealous (อิจฉา: envy )
ขี้สงสัย /kêe sǒng-sǎi/ – suspicious; dubious; doubtful; skeptical (สงสัย: suspect)
ขี้สงสาร /kêe sǒng-sǎan/ – overly sensitive; soft hearted (สงสาร: pity)
ขี้หึง /kêe hěung/ – jealous (หึง: jealous)
ขี้เหล้า /kêe lâo/ – a drunk; alcoholic (เหล้า: alcohol)
Category 3: A bad or negative character trait…
Most of the words in Category 1 and 2 sound a bit negative. Here are a couple that leave no doubts:
ขี้กลาก /kêe-glàak/ – ringworm (กลาก: ringworm)
ขี้ข้า /kêe-kâa/ – slave; servant (ข้า: servant)
ขี้เซา /kêe sao/ – halfsleep; sleepy; sluggish; torpid (เซา: calm down)
ขี้อ้อน /kêe ôn/ – crybaby (อ้อน: to beg)
ขี้นก /kêe nók/ – (usually preceded by ฝรั่ง /fà~ràng/) fake; inferior; worthless (ฝรั่ง: guava, foreigner, ขี้นก: bird dropping)
The guava, being introduced from the West Indies, was referred to as a foreign or ฝรั่ง /fà~ràng/ fruit. There is a special kind of guava called ฝรั่งขี้นก /fà~ràng kêe nók/ which is deemed a worthless fruit since no one would buy it. This doesn’t lessen the opinion of many an expat that the Thais are calling all ฝรั่ง /fà~ràng/ or foreigners, usually westerners, worthless bird droppings. You can take your pick of which definition is more fun. It is probably a bit of both as Thais simply love word-play of all kinds. I have heard women of the night refer to stingy expats as ฝรั่งขี้นก /fà~ràng kêe nók/ or worthless foreigners. Just know that if someone calls you this it is definitely not a compliment.
พริกขี้หนู /prík kêe nǒo/ – chili pepper (ขี้หนู: mouse droppings)
These little green and red chili peppers are to be eaten in limited quantities except for those without the taste buds for “hot”. It is probably their shape that gave them their name. They look exactly like their namesake.