In the Thai language, Jai (Thai: ใจ) means “Heart”, “Mind”, or “Spirit”. If you listen to conversations among Thais, you will hear this word for several times each day, and you will even see that the word “Jai” is frequently used on advertising campaigns and promotional literatures. It is always used as part of an expression to reflect “humanity” and “property of human being”, and it is much entrenched into the Thai culture, for Thai people perceive that “Jai” is not only the physical organ that merely pumps blood through the body in order to keep one alive, but “Jai” is also a key metaphor in the Thai language that expresses the innermost feelings and emotions.
To understand the Thai word “Jai” is to understand the importance of Thai “Heart”, which provides access to the Thai way of looking at themselves, others and life. Jai is the essential word root for many vocabularies; it is used to express ideas of being in a human way, actions and performances, states and conditions, feelings and emotions, and characteristics. This is because in the Thai language, Jai is the center of feeling, shaping moods, nurturing spirit, and building and sustaining personal and social relationships. Jai is also the major part of the expansive Thai vocabularies to express many deepest feelings such as, happiness, sadness, hope, fear and anxiety.
Additionally, the Thai language uses Jai or Thai heart to generate meaning in various contexts. For a native Thai language speaker who is raised to understand that Jai is the word with hundreds of shadings, it is the evocative word that echoes with many senses. Just like in English, the word heart is also associated with a more spiritual level to describe feelings or characteristics. In this case, Thais tend to use the word “Jai”.
However, since Thai people use the word Jai is to express “humanity” and “property of human being”, Thais hence always use words, phrases, idioms and proverbs with the word root “Jai” with human beings; but sometimes with the ghosts of dead people and rarely with animals.
Nevertheless, although many Jai expressions are universal but others are relatively more complex: culturally specific metaphors do not travel easily across cultural boundaries, or simply say, there are many expressions that are very difficult to explain, for they have no close English equivalents.
Therefore, an understanding of the concept of Jai or Thai heart is essential for successful communication and comprehension with people in Thailand. There are numerous examples of Thai words, phrases, idioms and proverbs that portray the senses of the major theme: Jai or Thai heart, of which some will be discussed in this paper.
The first example of Jai or Thai heart to be discussed is “Nam Jai” (Thai: น้ำใจ). Nam Jai means water that flows from the heart, which refers to the genuine, unconditional generosity that...