Hi, my name is Book. Yes, Book like a book.
I have a friend named Butter, who has a sister name Cheese and my father’s name is Black. He has brothers named Big and Box and Big has a son named Beer.
These are real people with real names just like mine.
I was born in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, with the name Book, meaning book. My name may sound unusual to many people outside of the country, but in Thailand it’s a common name for boys and sometimes girls.
Book was the nickname given to me at birth by my parents. They chose this word because they love reading and collecting books. Most Thai people are given a nickname which they go by and a legal name which is used in legal documents, formal settings and outside of personal life.
In Thailand, it’s very common to name your child after something you like or by a word that describes appearances. Some parents choose nicknames based on their kids’ appearance, like Black, Dang (meaning red), or even Noi (meaning small). But most of the time, Thai nicknames have absolutely nothing to do with the way kids look.
Sometimes, Thai parents like to name their kid with random words in foreign languages. Like pancake, which is one of the most popular nicknames for Thai girls. Or bomb, gift, link, milk, guitar, film, photo … you name it. Often Thai nicknames come from animal names, like Chang (meaning elephant) to Ant.
According to my eighty-year-old aunt, Audomluck Sadprasid, the practice of giving Thai kids a nickname of random words in either Thai or foreign language seems to have started about a generation before her. She explained there’s an old belief in Thailand that newborns are at risk of being kidnapped by monsters. But if parents call them fake names or nicknames, this will confuse the monsters and make them go away.
My aunt believes that after some time this practice just became more common and eventually a part of Thai culture.
For my friend Butter Nicharlee Leelayuttayotin having a Thai nickname isn’t something peculiar since it has always been around since she was born.
“I mean who was the one who decided that the right way to name your kids is using these words not those words or use the actual words for names or just random words.”
Most of the time, people have a hard time pronouncing and spelling Thai legal names. With family and friends most Thai people stay on the nickname basis, mostly to avoid the complications and inconveniences that come along with the long legal names.
I was given the legal name of Kanchanat, which means a girl with attractive eyes and hidden talents. I loved the meaning and the way the name sounded. But I never heard it enough to actually feel that it was my name.
Although the legal papers said that my name was Kanchanat, I continued to use mainly the name Book, especially when I came to Canada in 2012. That was when I realized how interesting it is to be referred to as Book on this side of the world. And by interesting, I actually mean weird.
After I say, “Hi, my name is Book.” I always get a confused look as a response. I think it’s just a sign of curiosity. They want to know my name’s story. I always tell people “Book like a book,” as an explanation. However, saying that never makes them less confused, but at least it can get people to call me Book instead of Brooks.
I’ve been called Book for the past 19 years. I feel that the word book describes me better than it describes an object consisting of pages sewed or glued together. To avoid the confusion and just because I wanted to, I have legally changed my name from Kanchanat to Book and have used Kanchanat as my middle name since 2014.
Like mine, most of Thai nicknames have stories behind them. Every time I hear another name or meet another person I’m always interested in hearing about their stories. If I had a kid, I will definitely make sure my kid has one of those cool names.