Monday, July 30, 2007


The name of our country represents us. It is the one single word we are proud of and held *almost* sacred. We make sure it is respected and we don’t tolerate insults. But what if our country name always gets misspelled, mispronounced and misrepresented? Won’t we take it as an insult? *I would!*

If that is the case; SE Asian countries I’m afraid, are some of the world’s most insulted countries.

Laos has to be the most mispronounced country name in the whole world. The French f*cked it up! They spelled the name of the country the French way when they colonized in the 1600s and didn’t correct it when they left – the “S” is silent. Now the world read it as LAH-‘OS or sometimes with too much American twang “LAY-‘OHS”. *Pffft!* The proper way to say Laos is without the “S” – LAO, as simple as that.

Now, how many books, magazines and other printed medium misspelled the word “Philippines”? It has to be the most maligned country name in the world. I have seen variations of “Philipines”, “Phillipines”, “Phillippines”, “Philipine”,”Philupins” written in the English context. They can’t seem to decide if it’s a double “L” or a double “P” or just double everything altogether! And not too many people know that they don’t have to put the “S” at the end all the time, ex. "Philippine Republic" and "Republic of the Philippines".

Thailand doesn’t have any problem with the spelling -- but a lot of people pronounce it as “THIGH-LAND”. *Whadda’?!!* This is not the "Land of Limbs and Lower Extremities” for christssake! It’s “TAI”. Although we love to put “H” on just about any English transliteration of our proper names, its not included in the pronunciation just as Phuket is not “Foo-ket”. Ha!

I don’t know how the Bruneians feel whenever their country pronounced as "Broo-neigh". Or maybe written without “Darussalam”. The proper pronunciation is "Broo-nai".

Honest mistake or not – it’s still a mistake and needs to be corrected. Now that you know; once is ok, twice is forgivable and the third is asking for war.*just kidding*



aries said...

...and the people of the philippines are not called philippin or philippinos. we call ourselves FILIPINO (add "S" for the plural form).

...peace. mwahh!

Bjarne said...

LOL! That "Philippines" part is so true. I used to spell it with 2 Ls and 2 Ps until somebody corrected me.

I think Brunei can tolerate if it's only written as such. Adding Darussalam is like writing the official name of the country all the time.

Good post. I like it. How did you think of this?

Anonymous said...

I have an Indian friend in Singapore who pronounce Philippines as "Philip-payns". WTF!!!

Dan Gabriel said...

so true about Laos. Pinoys who don't know better will read it the way it is spelled, "LA-os". It doesn't help that in Filipino, laos means "has-been". Oh and I think a travel show in one of the more popular channels in the Philippines will feature Laos with the guest hosts pronouncing it correctly.

As for the Philippines, I wonder if we could still go back to the name "Filipinas". Besides, this spelling looks and sounds more Pinoy.

markymd said...

at the recent AMAZING RACE ALL STAR, one of the contestants ROB MARIANO (with his partner AMBER) lagged behind in one of the detours because they could not seem to figure out what is wrong with what they are doing. Not knowing that they misspelled the country PHILIPPINES. Being a Filipino, I did not feel insulted or anything. I felt sorry for the guy, honestly. He is no smarter than a 5th grader. A dumb white boy who dont seem to know anything about world geography! Take that!
But if I were to choose I'd rather say than I came from a country called... PILIPINAS!

and FYI, our country's first official name (given to us by the spaniards) is Las Islas Filipinas
named after the King Philip of Espana!

that's all.

Thailand is formerly Siam right? so where did the name come from?

travelphilippines said...

i remember correcting my teacher back in 4th grade about the right pronunciation's of laos.

Pisanu for BISEAN said...

I would so love to spell it as PPHHIILLIIPPPPIINNEESS -- double eveything! Yipee! And say LAOSSSSSSSSSSSS! Reiterate the S! Wooopie! *kidding*

@ MARKYMD... it is written in an old book in Madrid that the Philippines is called "Archipelago de San Lazaro" BEFORE being named after King Philip II. My friend Sucre said she saw it too. I don't know why the country never acknowledge it.

As for SIAM...the origin is quite ironic. It was given to us by our neighbor Burma to describe our ancient people which originated in Southern China. We changed it to Thailand in the 1930s to describe the "Land of the Free".

Nam said...

Very astute observation

chase said...

i love this post. very informative..
now i know, laos has a silent s.

Steven said...

Wow, your post seems to have struck a nerve. Fortunately, I have some very dear friends in Thailand who have helped me to pronounce the names of their neighboring countries. Now I pass this information to the people I meet in Canada. Sawadee!, Xinchao and Sawadee krup!

Dan Gabriel said...

Yeah, I remember the Philippines being called Archipelago de San Lazaro. But if I remember correctly, the name Archipelago de San Lazaro (or was it Las Islas Filipinas?)did not refer to the whole 7,000+ islands (high tide or low tide?, I remember Charlene Gonzalez asking in the Miss Universe pageant).

I also seem to recall there being a time that Malaysia used to refer not just to the country we now know as Malaysia, but to a large chunk of the SE Asian region. I'm not sure if I remember correctly though.

Oh and I just noticed, you included me in your blogroll. Thanks pisanu! :)

Pisanu for BISEAN said...

@ Nam...thanks for dropping by. Should Vietnam be written as Viet Nam (2 eords) or as it is?

@ Chase...thanks dude! Glad you liked it.

@ Steven...krub, khop khun krup. I hope you're nejoying your adventure in India! You're so fortunate!

@ Dan...they named it San Lazaro for sometime and then changed it to Filipinas in honor of King Philip II of Spain.

hmzh said...

Honestly, we don't really mind that Darussalam is left out. It means The Abode of Peace. although saying it, in our culture, means that you're actually wishing or praying for the country's wellbeing if you get what I mean.

Brilliant post btw. Been reading this blog since last year and loved it. keep it up!

Q The Conqueror said...

Hmm.. If I remember right, Magellan's expedition first called the Philippines the Archipelago de San Lazaro. However, as my History Teacher loves to say, the Filipinos killed their first Western tourist, so well.. we got rid of Magellan.

Then another expedition came, led by a guy called Villalobos, who wanted to get brownie points with the Spanish royalty, so he renamed the islands after then prince Philip II.

Even though the islands were later freed, the name stuck because the islands were never united until the Spaniards came and conquered them all. And, this is why we are named after the guy whose main contribution in history is the monumental flop called the Spanish Armada.

Nam said...

Vietnam in Vietnamese should be written as Viet Nam. Either written together or separately, it does not seem to affect the pronunciation so it is ok. You always provide a unique take on things, I like that a lot. Keep up the good work.

Dexter said...


Now, that's what i call informative reading most especially how LAOS should be pronounced.. thanks PISHANU... harharhar!

Reyville said...

Oh my, I didn't know Laos is pronounced without the "s". Thanks for this.

Pisanu for BISEAN said...

YOu guys just dont have any idea how much i learn from your comments.

Thanks hmzh for that Brunei input. I don't get too much from your country. I'll visit soon!

Friedreich Bosch said...

The word philippino is not written in the English context. so philippino is acceptable in European countries.

Laos made an effort to correct the mispronunciation by changing it's official name to Lao PDR.

ponsinh said...

Just to raise a little controversy.
Siam described the natives that lived in Thailand. The peoples of China, Cambodia, Malaysia referred to these people as Siam. The Britished that colonised Malaysia then took this name to refer to the entire nation.
The Thais themselves have never heard of the name Siam. That's because the Thais are not native to their own country. They are a race that migrated from Southern China -they have always referred to themselves as Kon-Tai from Muang Thai (Thais from Thailand).
Before the Thais came to Thailand the country was rules by the Mon and the Khmers.

Peace everyone!!!
I am Lao by the way.

Pisanu for BISEAN said...

Sabai dee, Ponsinh. Thanks for the input. We appreciate it. :-)

Yeah, we can say that the original Thais (I'm Thai, by the way and I author this blog :-), are migrants. BUT -- aren't we all?

We Thai migrated fro m Southern China thousands of years ago. And so as the Vietnamese, the Lao, and the Burmese. The original inhabitant of this are (Indochiene) are the Khmers, the Mons, the Hmongs, etc.

And so as the Filipino islanders -- they migrated from Indonesia by land bridges. The Malays are migrants from Indonesia too. Singapore, of course is very obvious. :-)

So all in all, we are all migrants. Agree? Kop jai lalai. :-)

Pisanu for BISEAN said...

By the way Ponsihn, I love Laos! I lived there for more than 1 year and a half!

ponsinh said...

Hi Pisanu,
Really glad that you have real insight into Lao and its people.
I'm gettingto thinking that you are a really cool guy.
I'm so envious that you can live the life and travel all over SEA.
I would really love to do that too...but alas...we are not all as fortunate.

Really like your blog...will definately come by to see your updates again.

Ai Toto (my nickname)

Pisanu for BISEAN said...

Kop jai lalai Nong Toto. Khon Lao bo?

Are you in Laos or Esarn? I'll go to Nong Khai next week and probably go to Vientiane to buy some wine. Wines are cheaper in the border. :-)

Ponsinh said...

Hi Pisanu,
I am Lao from Vientiane. But you know a hundred years back the Esarn people were not called Esarn, they were called Lao. The name Esarn is actually just the name of the area not the people.
The language is not actually Esarn but Lao. It's just that the Thai government forced them to forget their Lao heritage as well as the Lao writing system.
That's why a hundred years later, the Esarn people call the language Esarn as well as calling themselves Esarn rather than lao.
You've lived in Lao, so you would be able to see that there are quite a lot of people in Lao that look very much like the Esarn people. If you go out to the country side you will see that their way of life, food, shelter etc is exactly the same as the Esarn.

In Laos itself there is are so many tribes that you really can't tell what a typical Lao person really looks like.
I am light coloured skin and most people would not consider me to look Lao. But in Lao itself there are many people who are light coloured skin.

My theory is that the Lao who are dark skinned are actually the natives of the land. The Lao language itself used in Lao and Esarn is probably a mixture of the native Language and the Tai languange.

Have a good day krub.
I think I am older than you. That's why I called myself "Ai".

Phoenix said...

Hi Pisanu,

Thanks for posting this. I love the tone of it- informative while being humorous at the same time.

For a long time now I've been planning to visit Thailand (lol @ people who would still pronounce it thighland), but I always end up going to Boracay or Puerto Galera instead..

Well, maybe this summer it may be different. Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

some additional info: most austronesian speaking people came from southern china then into taiwan and into archipelagic southeast asia to as far as rapa nui and madagascar.
as for the land bridge population theory for the philippines, it has already been debunked.
and by the way, very informative site about everything Southeast Asian. I would recommend this to my Asian History students.

Eric in Makati

MischMensch said...

And people always call Malaysians, "Malay" I get irritated when people say that oh so you're a Malay, it is Malaysian not Malay, estupido!

And oh I have to admit that I use to spell Philippines and Filipines Lol but now I have more Filipino friends I learn from them.


Before I read this stoey about an incident in GREENBELT MAKATI with a Filipino asking PISANU weather he is a foreigner or not and that he is from THAILAND so he was a TAIWANESE, I heard of it many times. I even saw it in a forum discussion years ago. One THAI even remarked that he hates TAIWAN because people always mistakenly take TAIWAN for THAILAND......

I think anybody would feel insulted , but I don't know if that kind of reaction is way too much or not.....

Is that being PROUD or being TOO PROUD? what say you guys?

Brent a.k.a. yourkidatheart said...

Since Sir Mabahague corrected us about the silent H in Thailand, I always had the urge to correct people who mispronounced it. It then makes me sad/frustrated when people insist on what I also used to think was correct.

It's all a matter of exposure. And I'm afraid these mistakes may be perennial.

Brent a.k.a. yourkidatheart said...

btw... a sort of full circle post? In relation to

Laugh! Life life everyone! ^_^

ken said...


malaya + singapore + sarawak + north borneo/sabah - singapore = malaysia

malay just the majority in malaysia, not the native race


Lawrence said...


I've read a study before saying that the inhabitants of the Philippines migrated from the north, probably from Southern China, and not from Indonesia, as German anthropologist Otley Beyer said. It was evidenced by cultural links and physiological likeness between the peoples of the northern part of the country with that of Taiwan.

Aku said...


I've read that studies too before, but recent genetic research (release in March or April 2008) shows that "out of Taiwan" theory is wrong, instead it is "into Taiwan, out of Borneo". This means that, people in Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei & Madagascar are actually coming from Borneo.

here some link of that news,

Allen Yu said...

I always spell Vietnam as Viet Nam. I first learned of it during the 2003 SEA Games. By the way, here's how we call countries in the Filipino tongue.

Germany is called Alemanya
The UK is called Inglatera
The US is Estados Unidos
The Netherlands is called Olandya
China is Tsina
Russia is Rusya
Spain is Espanya
Italy is Italya

Southeast asian countries are spelled originally when used in Filipino. It only shows how we understand each other. lol.

just so you'd know...

Bruneian said...

As Hmzh said, leave out the Darussalam if its a mouthful, but say it if you're wishful that this country remains peaceful...Boring...but peaceful, and at that we're grateful

Anonymous said...

well, Bruneians don't really mind if people just said Brunei and leaving the Darussalam

but i always feel weird when someone pronounced 'Broo-neigh' because Bruneians pronounced Brunei as 'Broo-nai'

but that's not a serious matter, right?

i just feel weird though lol hehe

Anonymous said...

some people tend to drop the article "the" in the philippines, just an observation...

Ayim Salleh said...

Basically for my language (Malay obviously) only Philippines and Singapore has the different way of saying and spelling... for Philippines we spell as Filipina and for Singapore as Singapura.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and I want to add.. Besides Filipina (Philippines) and Singapura (Singapore), Cambodia is spelled and pronounced as Kemboja in Malay language. Some people in Malaysia (that live near the Thai-M'sia borders like Kelantan & Kedah) also referred Thailand as Siam... And the old name for Singapura is Temasek (from the Javanese language Tumasik)... :)

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