All Hell broke loose / นรกแตก
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.