Thai people love to use animal proverbs. Here I list 7 more animal idioms / proverbs that I learned since I was a child and which I am absolutely certain that every Thai person knows.
ม้าดีดกะโหลก máa dèet gà hŏh lók
Literal meaning: Horse kicking the skull
Actual meaning: An ill-mannered woman who is not calm and composed. A woman who jumps around in a hyper manner.
Explanation: When a horse doesn’t obey it’s master it jumps around and tries to kick everyone. The act of jumping around leaning the weight on the front leg to back leg is call โขยก (kà-yòhk) which as time passes by the word โขยก turn in to the word กะโหลก which mean skull and has similar pronunciation.
- No matter how much she practices her manners, in the end she still is “an ill-mannered woman”.
mâi wâa ter jà fèuk maa-rá-yâat kà-nàat năi · sùt táai gôr yang bpen máa dèet gà-hŏhn gor yôo-dee
จับปูใส่กระด้ง jàp bpoo sài grà dông
Literal meaning: Putting a crab in a round container
Actual meaning: This proverb is about kids. We try to take care of them by making them stay still and calm but it’s impossible because they are very naughty and won’t stop moving.
Explanation: This is a comparison to a crab. When we put a crab in a round container it doesn’t stop moving and walking around back and forth until it finds the way out of the container.
- I won’t be a pre-school teacher. Looking after kids is like “putting a crab in a round container”.
chăn jà mâi bpen kroo à-nú-baan nâe · doo lae dèk mĕuan jàp bpoo sài grà dông
ยืนกระต่ายสามขา yeun grà-dtàai săam-kăa
Literal meaning: To insist on 3-legged rabbit
Actual meaning: To insist on something very firmly and not changing one’s mind at all, what so ever.
Explanation: This proverb came from a Thai local story that talks about a temple boy. One day this boy was cooking a rabbit for a monk. It looked very tasty so he tore one of the legs and ate it himself. When the monk saw the rabbit with 3 legs he asked who took the other leg. The temple boy insisted again and again that the rabbit had 3 legs since the beginning.
- No matter how many times I ask he “insists on a 3-legged rabbit” that he didn’t do it.
mâi wâa jà tăam gèe rôp kăo gôr yang yeun săam-kăa wâa · mâi dâai tam
วัวแก่กินหญ้าอ่อน wua-gàe gin yâa-òn
Literal meaning: An old cow wants to eat young grass
Actual meaning: This signifies an old man person that has a girlfriend who is the age of his grandchildren.
Explanation: Cow here signifies old man. Young grass signifies young girls. The nature of an old cow is that it always chooses to eat only young grass.
- Did you hear the news that Pong has a new girlfriend that is very young? He became “An old cow wants to eat young grass”.
dâai kàao măi wâa pêe bpŏr ง bpai mee faen-mài aa-yú-rûn-lăan loie à · glaai bpen wan-gàe gin yâa-òn
สอนจระเข้ให้ว่ายน้ำ sŏn jor-rá-kây hâi wâai náam
Literal meaning: Teach a crocodile to swim
Actual meaning: Trying to teach someone who is already an expert in that particular area.
Explanation: Crocodiles are born with the ability to swim. We can never swim better than a crocodile.
- He has taught here 10 years. You can and advise him about teaching is like “Teaching a crocodile to swim”
วัวหายล้อมคอก wua hăai lóm kôk
Literal meaning: The cow is lost then you build the stall
Actual meaning: To think about fixing damages after the problem happened. It is already too late because the damage has been done. So it is better to consider how to prevent the problem before it happens than to try to solve it after it’s too late.
Explanation: Many houses in the suburb have a cow stable. A family that firmly places the guard around the stable will be less likely to have their cow stolen by a thief. But people who are lazy or not careful don’t prevent the thief from breaking in. But once they lose a cow, they start strengthening the stable guard. But it’s already too late because the cow is already lost.
- You have to protect in order to not have problems. Don’t let “The cow get lost before you build the stall”
rao dtông bpông gan mâi hâi bpan-hăa gèrt · yàa bplòi hâi wua hăai láew kôi lóm kôk
ดินพอกหางหมู din pôk hăang mŏo
Literal meaning: Dirt covers the pig’s tail.
Actual meaning: This is when you are lazy to do something. You procrastinate again and again until it becomes something even. more difficult to finish or impossible to finish. It becomes a big burden.
Explanation: In a pig stable, the ground is usually muddy and moist. Pig likes to swing their tail around and very soon all those mud add up and become heavy.
- You procrastinate like this, soon the “Dirt covers the pig’s tail”.
ter plàt wan bprà-gan prûng bàep née dĭeow mâi naan gôr din pôk hăang mŏo ròk