'Bridge of Thighs,' Exhibitors-Herald-World, 1930

Yesterday, Donald Trump made one of his dumb little reading-off-a-teleprompter mistakes, accidentally mispronouncing "Thailand" as "thigh-land." He immediately corrected himself and went on to say he really likes the leaders of Thailand and Vietnam, who are constantly ripping off the USA and that's gonna end, just you wait and see, because international trade is a zero-sum game (which it kinda isn't really). So here's the next host of "Never-Reads Anything Rainbow" doing his thing:

THIGH-LAND: President Trump TELEPROMPTER PROBLEMS? youtu.be

Folks laughed, pointed out that Donald Trump doesn't read, and moved on, because it was just one more amusing but Mostly Harmless example of the leader of the Free World being a witless numpty.

At least that's what it was until convicted (but pardoned by Trump) felon Dinesh D'Souza started insisting on Twitter that Trump hadn't made a "mistake," because the proper pronunciation of the Southeast Asian nation really IS "thigh-land," at least in erudite corners of the British Empiah, and it's only you provincial American rubes (and Donald Trump in his second try) who think "Thailand" is pronounced with an initial /t/, not an initial /Θ/.

He's still at it today, in fact. We can only assume that, following his 2018 pardon, the smarmy little bumblefuck must have sworn a Wookie Life Debt to the Great Man.

Christ, what an athhole.

Still, since this is August, in the midst of what in the Before Times was called the Silly Season because there wasn't a lot of news going on, and even in election years the campaigning really only got going after Labor Day, everyone, linguists included, seems to be having a fine old time telling D'Souza he's a freaking idiot. Bhutan up your coats; this visit to the thighs of the internet will involve some cunning linguistics.


Reuters, in a piece that briefly mentions and then dismisses D'Souza's proclamation, notes that Thai news outlets had fun with the gaffe:

#Thighland became one of the top-trending Twitter hashtags in Thailand with 32,000 tweets and in the top 25 in the United States with over 156,000, according to the tracking site Twitscoop.

The English-language online newspaper Thai Enquirer changed its Twitter name to "Thigh Enquirer" early Friday morning and ran an article on the mistake. TNN Online also reported the news here as did Thailand's Voice TV, and Matichon newspaper.

We're glad we actually checked out the article at the Thai Enquirer, because the paper took the nontroversy exactly as seriously as it deserved:

The paper also tackled D'Souza's claim with a tweet of its own, which we'll screenshot here because we imagine they'll go back to the conventional name once everyone in the office stops giggling. The tweet even includes its own Thai-English joke.

"5555555555" it turns out, is not a reference to Interstella 5555, one of the most gloriously weird movies ever made, but is actually Thai internet slang:

555: Alternate version of lol or "hahaha" in online or text conversation, usually with someone who speaks Thai. The Thai word for 5 is pronounced "ha", so three of them would be pronounced "hahaha"

The more you know!

Despite D'Souza's insistence that it IS SO pronounced "Thighland" in British, Australian, and Indian varieties of English, scores of people from those countries showed up in his replies to tell him he was a Nidiot (the original spelling). Several noted that the Reuters piece had consulted an Actual Linguistics Expert on the matter:

Rikker Dockum, a professor of linguistics at Swarthmore College, told Reuters that Trump's second pronunciation - with an aspirated hard "t" instead of a soft "th" sound - is the widely used one in both Thai and English.

"Among English speakers around the world, this is not a disputed pronunciation," he added.

Then Rikker Dockum returned to his homeworld somewhere in the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

The India-based English language website MEAWW had its own fun with D'Souza, highlighting a tweet that offered its own provincal take:

And thighing things up with a bow from another Indian speaker of Indian English, who speaks for us all:

And we'll let this find at the invaluable Language Log blog play the former felon off:

Still, we're looking forward to D'Souza's upcoming Star Wars fanfiction, in which the Empire's elite pilots chase after the galactic Rebels in Thigh Fighters

[Reuters / Thai Enquirer / MEAWW / Language Log / Photo: Exhibitors-Herald-World, Feb 8, 1930, via Paper Dragon]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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