From Thai to English and Back Again

Today I learned how to write "I miss you" in Thai: ผม คิดถึง คุณ

ผม (pohm) = I
คิดถึง (kit-teung) = miss
คุณ (khoon) = you

The grammar and syntax are identical, but there's something really interesting happening with the Thai verb, คิดถึง (kit-teung), that sets it apart from the English verb, "to miss."

Unlike verbs in English, many verbs in Thai are what you might call compound verbs. คิดถึง (kit-teung) is no exception. It is a combination of two distinct verbs: คิด (kit) is the Thai equivalent of the English verb "to think" while ถึง (teung) is that of the verb "to reach."

The English verb "to miss" comes from the Old English verb "missan" meaning "fail to hit", which comes from the Old Norse verb "missa" meaning "to lack", which in turn comes from the Proto-Germanic verb "missjan" meaning "to go wrong."

In other words, the common English expression "I miss you" basically boils down to "I am trying to connect with you, but I cannot because you are not here." Just like throwing things at a target and missing every time because the target is nowhere to be found.

The Thai expression ผมคิดถึงคุณ (pohm kit-teung khoon), however, literally means "I reach you by thinking about you."

In English, the connection is lost because thinking cannot bridge the distance between you and the person you "miss."

In Thai, the connection is not lost because thinking bridges that very same distance.

So when your Thai significant other asks you, "Do you miss me?" (in English) less than five minutes after saying goodbye to you in person and you think, "That's impossible! I just saw you," what they really mean is, "Are you thinking about me?"


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