Translated by Peera Songkünnatham
[คลิกที่นี่เพื่ออ่าน “สรรพลี้หวน” ในต้นฉบับภาษาใต้]
Kham phuan is a popular form of Thai wordplay similar to spoonerism in English, where smart fella, for instance, gets flipped to fart smella. If we were actually doing it the Thai way, though, smart fella would be flipped to smella fart, that is, the pair of beginning consonants or consonant clusters remain in place, while the rest gets swapped. Your average Thai jokester tends to use kham phuan to flash thinly veiled references to the nether regions, most often invulving the word hee, ‘cunt.’
“A Deep Dive Into Elephant Cuntry” is translated from a narrative poem that pushes this risqué wordplay to its most elaborate. Originally titled Sapleehuan, as in sap luan hee, ‘cunt all over,’ the poem is a bawdy parody of royal epics in which kham phuan appears on almost every line, thrusting genitalia into all sorts of improbable things. Starting with proper names: one of the kings is called Khotuay, as in khuay toe, ‘big cock’; one of the queens Hinplee, as in hee plin, ‘prolapsed pussy’; one of the cities Hangchee, as in hee chang, ‘elephant cunt.’
On top of that, it is written in a Southern dialect, which means that about half the kham phuan won’t sound right or won’t make sense unless the reader reads it in accordance with Southern Thai tones and knows a few Southern vulgar terms.
Composed in the late nineteenth century, Sapleehuan was (first?) published in 1973 by someone under the pseudonym Khun Phrom Lok, who wrote the following introduction:
In this book Sapleehuan the author’s name does not appear. Who he was, where he was from, remain open questions. According to oral transmission, we know simply that the author was a native of Nakhon Si Thammarat, and probably penned this work some time between 2425-2439 B.E. [1882-1896] or approximately 80-90 years ago. A more outlandish tidbit says that as he finished (or didn’t quite finish) writing it, he vomited blood to death. This I won’t verify.
The aptitude for poetry and art among the people of Nakhon Si Thammarat has been in evidence since ancient times, in a variety of genres such as klon [poems], pleng bok [festive info-songs], verses accompanying a shadow play, etc. Sapleehuan, in particular, is a work of great genius that reveals the author’s learnedness and an especially naughty sense of humor, which lends him facility for verses of this kind.
If I may, my reader, please read this for its artistic aspect. Don’t think of it as obscene material, and you won’t be troubled. Let it lift your spirits. And when you make merit, please dedicate some of it to the author, too.
May you find enjoyment in this book,
Khun Phrom Lok
(To listen to Sapleehuan being chanted by folk singer Ekachai Srivichai, another native of Nakhon Si Thammarat, click here.)
The following translated excerpt widens the arse-nal of wordplay considerably, in keeping with the punning and innuendoing possibilities of English. This finisher to the issue How Obscene‽ aims to offer a fresh encounter with a literary curiosity from the prolific reign of King Chulalongkorn. The theme’s interrobang can involve more than coolly interrogating the exclamation point—here’s to playing up the question mark! Rather than a piece of regional patrimony to be glibly invoked in justification of misogyny as happened in the aftermath of Yingluck Shinawatra’s exile, Sapleehuan may be reread as a campy question mark on the supposedly deep-rooted sanctity of the royal class. What if we let this light verse tickle our minds in the 2020s, when so much that is held to be sacred in our kingdom has exposed itself to be a farce?
A Deep Dive Into Elephant Cuntry
There once was a cuntry of majestic size,
one hundred thousand feet width and lengthwise.
Grand Pœsy City dazzled the naked eye.
Entangled bushes hid the front hollway,
patterned with tinsel gilding fleshy flaps
which hung down just enough to reach and grasp.
The palace wallva was sturdy and thick,
a padlock for His Majesty King Dooge Hick.
His beloved consort had a pretty face
and cozy runt, once ravished, now lavished with praise.
She was the Beauty, Queen May Bea-Lajora,
lover of gardening with king-size flora.
They had a son, a young hooth named March L’Ember,
a restless loner booding in his chamber
itching to find a soulmate to hatiate him.
For this, they must ask for the hand of Kim
Pressif-Unnt, daughter of King Bécquer Pig
and Queen Yolap St Proni, the two big
wigs ruling Elephant Cuntry, which was remote.
So Dooge, pen snug in hand, with vigorous strokes
wrote a note inthercourse of two-to-three minutes,
then beckoned to his servant Gen. Pervy Keyness,
on his hands and knees, ready for his dic-
tate. “Take the letter, Pervy. Get there quick.”
“I have been suffering from fatigue, my poor
skin overfield exposed. Luckily, señor,
a buffalo hunt keeled my disease somewhat.
But I’ll oblige, milord, even if one must
go all the way to reach Kim Pressif-Unnt.
I’ll get the prelp for His Higherpism at once.”
He left the city and soon had a woody
area before him. The prospects for hidden booty
and faerie hannies led him to explore
amid a canoply of pocks on mor-
asses. He came upon a pond of lotuses
whose surface was a writhing mass of koituses.
He plucked a few, savoring a whiff of dank
rick. Long-necked swansons jooped down for a dink.
Following a trail of pearly cubes, he cun-
tinued looking, till he stumbled upon
a big mystery box of busted earthenware.
He wondered, “Who’d duft their stick in there?”
To his surprise, there were thyme ’n’ herrings.
Enjoying his food luck, he lost his bearings.
Three days passed. He was exhausted, sick door.
“Nope, no more honey bowls for me,” he swore.
Finally, he approached the city confines,
but his caftan head got shaught on vines
of roses he’d no choice but to deflower
and slap clean. Soon he arrived at the watchtower
of Elephant Cuntry. The soldiers kreeping watch
blew a horn. Generals tushed to the gateway arch,
causing a stir. Round the peephole they stood, glued.
“What’s up, kind sir?” “I come bearing newds
from a faraway land known for dashing flinks,
for Princess Kim Pressif-Unnt. Pray tell, are things
still groin’ swell with King Bécquer Pig? Her Maj’
Yolap St Proni—itchy alvight in the raj?”
“Come inside” said Gen. Schlub Klong, keying the front
double-gate, which squeaked so loud as it was opened
the split almost got clintered from the friction.
Gen. Pervy Keyness entered, genuflecting,
and saw the king’s halls bang out. Seated next
to his wife, Bécquer’s head had halo effects
from wingrerm. Pervy crawled up to the throne,
gracefully bowing his plone, and gave the moan-
arch the letter. Unfolding it, he read,
“Hey there, it’s Dooge Hick, your dear belovèd
of Grand Pœsy City. Me and May
Bea-Lajora are seeking a fiancée
for our son March L’Ember. Say, your hottie
of a daughter, wouldn’t she want to meat somebody
worthy of keeping her snug and ratch?
We truly think she is the perfect match
for our son’s kimpressive pair of ojones!”
Thrilled, Bécquer Pig and Yolap St Proni
summoned their daughter into the audience room.
Radiant as areola, white as cum-
ulus clouds, Kim was everybody’s girl,
but puberty brought no happeniss for her,
it being clerect. She came, squirtsied, sat her
pet wussy down. “You called me, what’s the matter?
Some manhunt in Keet?” The king got it up.
“Look, my dear daughter, this is no small stuff
to take in at once. That right-leaning dic-
nitary, at the behest of King Dooge Hick,
came a great distance carrying the prince’s love.
Although he’s small framed, you’ll fit like a glove
on other fronts—guy’s got the worthiest geener!
He is March L’Ember, not an average Peter.”
The king cleared his throat and bumbled with his phoner.
“Don’t turn him down. Wedding the beau-man’s in order.”