A good friend recently had a baby, yet unnamed, so I’ve given some thought to the names Lao people have.

At a recent swimming carnival there was a small child competitor called “Big Bot”. I’m quite certain that’s not a Lao name, but some strange quasi-English name. Another contestant was called “Dolphin”.

A friend’s Lao room mate says when he has a kid he’ll call it “Shakespeare” if it’s a boy and “Ebay” if it’s a girl. I don’t think he’s joking.

And there’s always the four most common nicknames of Fatty (Thooey), Skinny (Joy), Small (Noy) and Big (Nyai).

Lots of Lao girls are called Fatty, or thooey. I’ve been told you can only call girls Fatty (Thooey) if they aren’t actually fat. It’s used as an ironic statement, as most thooeys are actually quite skinny.

One colleague I worked with was introduced to me as Mr Oui. It took an entire year before he finally told me that Oui was  actually just short for Thooey (Fatty). Only then did I realise I’d been calling him Mr Fatty the entire time.

One volunteer was nicknamed Moon because she had face shaped like the moon.

Babies are often given a nickname before they are given a full name. This may be due to the high infant mortality rate. Giving your baby a bad sounding nick name – like dirty, fatty, ugly – is quite common and seen as a way of keeping spirits from stealing the baby.