Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Peripatetesthete: Bangkok

Bangkok is, if you think of it, almost the perfect name for a city that has the reputation for permissive sexuality. One wonders if the cart came before the horse. Nothing in the early history of the name suggests that there was any onomatopoeia involved (thought the actual Thai name for Bangkok, Krung  Thep Maha, is equally suggestive). Still one of the most notorious attractions is the red light district known as Soi Cowboy and what better choice of syllables to express the intent of wanderers in this part of town than “bang” and “kok.”Many visitors to Bangkok might not be saying it, but they are thinking “BangCock” rather than Bangkok when they breeze into town. Say no more. Bang is plainly what the average Joe does when he comes to Bangkok unless he has journeyed there for foreign affairs. It would be interesting to know what Noam Chomsky, who propagated the idea of a Universal Grammar, would have to say about the suggestive sounds which compromise the Thai capital’s name. If we deconstruct the word, would he find something in the culture and in the environment which produced a thriving pornopolis and is it sexual freedom, tolerance or simply poverty that that explains a culture where the capital city actually sounds like a dirty word. If the Greeks had been as permissive then Thebes might have been named Motherfucker.

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