It’s still Bangkok: Thailand quells talk of name change

BANGKOK — No, English speakers and others using the Roman alphabet aren’t going to have to start calling the Thai capital by its local name, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, and drop the more familiar “Bangkok.”

That’s the message from Thailand’s Royal Society, which is responsible for academic and linguistic standards, after a seemingly innocuous change in punctuation in official guidance sparked a flurry of speculation that the city’s name was being changed.

It started when the Cabinet on Tuesday approved a Royal Society proposal changing the way the capital would be referred to internationally from “Krung Thep Maha Nakhon; Bangkok” to “Krung Thep Maha Nakhon (Bangkok).”

As people sought to divine the meaning behind changing the semicolon to parentheses, many put great weight to the accompanying explanation that it would “revise” the name of the capital city and keep the “former” name in brackets. The capital has been officially called Krung Thep Maha Nakhon in Thai, meaning “great city among angels”. Most Thais refer to it as Krung Thep Thep when they speak.

As speculation increased, Wednesday’s Facebook post by the Royal Society clarified that they had made a stylistic shift to their guidance.

“Writing Bangkok’s capital city name using the Roman alphabet is possible,” said the government agency, alluding to any fears that non-Thai speakers might have about the name change.

Even if the Royal Society had meant to change the name to the one used by Thais, however, there is another option that would have been an even greater challenge for foreign tongues.

The Thai title for Bangkok is Krung Thep Maha Nakhon. It is actually an abbreviation of the full name of Bangkok. This is because it is written in Pali and Sanskrit.

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