Saturday, February 9, 2008

This nose can't smell a PR snafu

There's an ongoing brouhaha in Bangkok over the sign language word for the new Prime Minister, Samak Sundarawej. The new PM, who was officially voted in this past Monday, has complained that Thai sign language interpreters refer to him by touching their nose with a cupped hand. On Thai TV several channels show a little box translating their programs into sign language, particularly during news and talk shows. The man's a little sensitive about the size of his schnozz.

Pundits have been duking it out in the media for more than a week now. The interpreters say that the sign isn't new--they've been using this sign for Samak for a long time now. Samak was previously the governor of Bangkok from 2000-2003, and has been a prominent and controversial political figure since he led the anti-communist witch hunts of the 1970s, and used U.S. involvement in the Middle East to justify Bloody May in 1992. He's no stranger to being in the news.

Right now I'm sitting here watching a Thai news talk show, and they've got a whole panel of sign language interpreters and deaf Thais on to talk about this. They're pointing out that they make up signs for public figures based on prominent physical features. Samak's nose isn't being picked on (sorry, I couldn't resist).

Their explanation makes good sense to me. But known for his sharp tongue and thin skin, it stands to be seen when or if Samak will give up this fight. It's getting a lot of press worldwide, and making rounds on the "weird news" websites. Samak has inadvertently discovered that the Streisand effect applies to more than just the internet.

I wonder if he'll do anything about his nickname among the general Thai populace, 'rose-apple nose' ...

[Cross-posted on Thai 101.]


Scott Abbott said...

Reminds me of when I was told that my name -- Scott -- meant "vermin" in Serbo-Croatian.

Vegor said...

I heard about this on NPR...the next night I mentioned it to our waitress at Bangkok Grill...she thought it was quite amusing. They say the last president had a very square head and that the sign for him was two hands making 90 degree corners at the forehead.

Vegor said...

I love that the President's name is Samak...because their is a town in Utah called Samak. It is the backside of Kamas as you enter the Uintas...Samak is Kamas spelled backwards.