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A royal gift

Sukhsvasti, M.C. Prasobsukh & A.C.S. of the Siam Chronicle Siamese-English Conversation. [Bangkok] [1936]
First edition, pp.96. A good copy in rather faded original wrappers. The wrappers are are creased, with several chips and tears broadly one centimetre in depth and a repaired tear that spans half the back cover. The head of the spine is missing a three centimetre long portion and the foot of the spine a one centimetre long portion. The text is in very good condition with only one or two minor tears to most pages. The last 5 pages are missing one centimetre or less of their top outer corner. Occasional pencil note in pages. Inscription in Thai, which translates as: "For Khun Eugenie, To give a souvenir, as we have worked in language together, and been acquainted to each other for a long time. Klin Thephasdin 14.1.85." The Thai year, 85 (2485) = 1942. Eugenie Henderson was a linguist specialising in Southeast Asian languages. Klin Thephasdin was from the Na Ayutthaya branch of the Thai Royal Family.

An extraordinary collection of English phrases compiled by Thai teachers of English, with phrases they imagine an upper-class English traveller might use while visiting Thailand. The conversations involve distinctly Thai issues, such as complaining about the amount of "tricycles" on the roads. Mis-understandings of English custom abound. The main character, Boon Mee, boasts that he "got up at four... and have been sitting here waiting" to start a Sunday morning walk, and complains he cannot handle "hot stuffs" because "I have intestinal trouble". His patriotism is evident - when Chinese or foreign goods are mentioned he says "it can't beat the Siamese". His counterpart, Boon Ma, is the recipient of Boon Mee's many complaints and is often equipped with a witty retort, responding with "I'm no bird and I don't want any worm for breakfast" to Boon Mee's attempts at coaxing him out of bed. The Siam Chronicle appears regularly, as in: "Oh, what did you say? I was rather absorbed in the "Siam Chronicle,"" so it was probably the publisher. The use of underlining key phrases to aid the reader is sporadic, from the useful "Have dinner with me", through the surprisingly forthright "All girls have a tendency to be shy", to the odd English idiom such as "The more the merrier". What a British linguist was doing with a Thai Prince with military connections in wartime Bangkok remains a mystery.