All Hell broke loose / นรกแตก

Wednesday, April 9, 2008 at 8:51 pm 5 comments

The other day, my wife uttered this phrase, and when she explained it to me, I realized that the Thai นรกแตก is basically exactly the same expression as the English “all hell broke loose.”

In Thai, แตก means “break,” specifically with the implication of shattering, bursting, and with stuff spilling out. Glasses break (แก้วแตก), bags burst (ถุงแตก), and you can bust your head open (หัวแตก). In contrast, breaking pencils or body parts is หัก, as in แขนหัก.

And of course, นรก means Hell.

So the mental picture in both languages is the gates of Hell bursting open and all sorts of mayhem flooding forth. Both languages use the expression to describe the point in time when something orderly falls into chaos, perhaps in an unsalvageable way.

(Incidentally, my professional life has changed quite a bit recently, and nowadays, I am working exclusively with non-Thai-speaking foreigners. So it is now very difficult for me to find sources of information for this blog. Nevertheless I shall continue to post things as I come across them.)

Entry filed under: Pseudo-cognates.

Business Thai Digest: Feb 6, 2008

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. JC  |  Monday, April 14, 2008 at 11:45 am

    Thanks I’m going to look for oppurtunities to use this one.

  • 2. Jason  |  Monday, April 14, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    You’re welcome!

  • 3. Pon  |  Monday, April 28, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    I’ve become a big fan of your blog now. Though I’m a native Thai, I found your articles which aim to help English speakers really helpful to me as well.

    One question though. Now you have a Thai wife?
    That would help you speak Thai fluently in no time:)

    Keep up the good work.

  • 4. Jason  |  Tuesday, April 29, 2008 at 11:04 pm

    Thanks for the feedback, Pon. Most of my posts do indeed help people learning both languages.

    I am not a Thai expert, but I do speak conversational Thai pretty much fluently, and I can read and write at an elementary level. At this level of proficiency, I don’t think a Thai wife really helps that much, because we don’t have any communication problems because of the language.

    What I do miss a lot is doing my job (computer software and security) with Thais, because I pick up a lot of interesting things from listening to them speak. But at the moment, all of my work is in North America. Hopefully that will change soon enough.

  • 5. mananya  |  Wednesday, November 5, 2008 at 5:54 am

    I am native Thai. I would like to share and give a comment as I see khun JC posted on Monday, April 14, 2008 at 11:45 am

    Thanks I’m going to look for oppurtunities to use this one. (the word นรกแตก)

    In my opinion, I think this word is not a good word to try to find an opportunity to use. If you use it, you may gain the negative response. This word is sometime used as an expression or exclamation word which doesn’t mean anything but exclamation!. Anyway,for the word itself, the meaning of นรกแตก is in the sense of bad things happened.It is alright to study or learn its meaning but I think if we speak, why not we learn to speak the nice words.

    I remember there is thai teaching about speech that there are 5 components of good speech or วาจาสุภาษิต. I will continue telling that 5 components if anybody is interested :)

    thank you


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