‘Krung Thep Maha Nakhon (Bangkok)’ is the best/worst thing to happen: internet

Graphic designers everywhere are rethinking their careers. Photo: Coconuts
Graphic designers everywhere are rethinking their careers. Photo: Coconuts

Debate continued today over whether changing Bangkok’s name is more eye-rolling absurdity or long-overdue correction.

After plans to change the capital’s name were suddenly announced – the governor of Bangkok, er, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, said today the change will take time – the reactions have ranged from exasperated and amused to supportive, with a fair amount of lulz seasoning the social media broth.

The divide has been clear since the change, proposed by the Thai Royal Academy, was endorsed by the cabinet and announced Tuesday evening. Understandably, people deemed the change unnecessary.

“Yes, Erdogan changed Turkey to ‘Türkiye,’ But from Bangkok to ‘Krung Thep Maha Nakorn?’” tweeted author and Twitter personality Kaewmala. “Seriously, WHY? Too much time on your hands?”

Bangkok wouldn’t be the first major city to revert internationally to a more traditional name. Some argue it removes the vestiges of colonialism, though the changes are often made by right-wing reactionaries, such as the Hindu nationalists who made Bombay into Mumbai after coming to power.

“Happy to see Bangkok finally changing to Krung Thep Maha Nakhon in English,” tweeted Phacharaphorn Phanomvan, who has taught at Oxford and Chulalongkorn universities. “IMO this is a belated decolonising paradigm move. No one Thai calls the city Bangkok. Bangkok is literally two districts in Thonburi where foreign businesses were located in the 17th and 18th century.”

Aswin Kwanmuang, the former police general installed by the military as governor, said the lengthy name will be followed by Bangkok in parenthesis.

That means everyone from graphic designers to signmakers are going to need more space to accommodate “Krung Thep Maha Nakhon (Bangkok).”

Showing his thinky side, he added that names are “abstract,” reminding people that the new name isn’t new at all.

Since its founding in 1782, the capital’s ceremonial name has been Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Phiman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit. In casual use, Thais call it Krung Thep.

Many Thai nationals can sing this by heart, given that 50% of public education consists of memorizing songs about things.

There is some debate over the origins of “Bangkok.” The main competing theories are that it came from Bang Koh (place of islands), or Bang Makok (place of olives).

Of course the words Bang Makok triggered countless puerile takes from the “just say it out loud” crowd.

In fact, a number of people said they would no longer have to wince at hearing archaic jokes about banging cocks. (Those who miss them can still travel to Bang Sue.) 

“Always called it Krung Thep when in Thailand because that’s what I was taught was the proper / respectful name for the city when I was in Thai language school,” tweeted MikePerryavatar. “Not to mention, the ‘bang your cock’ jokes get old after decades of endlessly hearing them from English-speaking boors.”

Others bemoaned how much additional writing they will have to do.

“Everyone’s gonna get tired of writing that out in every form,” Thai-Canadian Jordan Gandy said.

Still others saw the change as a big nothing.

“Bangkok has been known as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon since 2001! They’re just putting Bangkok in parenthesis. That’s it, there’s nothing else to it,” Junifactcheck wrote in Thai in a message retweeted more than 2,000 times.

But being the internet, most only got as far as the dick jokes.

“I don’t mind if some ‘Mericans would teased me with the Bang Cock after Bangkok. I mean its hilarious. Unlike #KrungThepMahaNakhon which no one gonna remember anyway,” JiraratNu tweeted.

Alas, it will mean a thoughtful verse by the bard known as Ludacris will one day require a footnote, as Gresham2X wondered aloud, “Why did Ludacris say I bang cock in Bangkok[?]”

Additional writing Todd Ruiz

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