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  5. "Tây ba lô"

"Tây ba "

Translation:Western backpacker

July 30, 2016



"ba lô" is a loanword from the French "ballot" meaning package, bundle. it is now used to refer to backpacks


"ballot" is also French slang for idiot or imbecile. I believe it's older slang because I only learned it from reading novels, but it certainly makes this a fun inherited double entendre!


honestly, this is the very first time I've heard of that definition. it seems to me a French, or an European thing, I don't think it has ever come to this side of the ocean, here in Québec.


Well, like I said it's old. I haven't heard it used although I am tempted to try it haha. I asked some friends and they confirmed it was something their grandparents would have used. I have doubts this is why the Vietnamese took it up, but it just made me laugh anyway as I am sure some during the resistance against the French were aware of it. https://www.larousse.fr/dictionnaires/francais/ballot/7715?q=ballot#7671


I'm a backpacker from Hong Kong, how do you call me?


Just as a quick side note: this is an insult. If someone calls you this when you're in Vietnam they're being disrespectful.


It's not that old, I hear it here in the states, refers to the hippy types that travel within Vietnam on a dime. Usually used as a pejorative.


This slang usually refers to the western lowcost, lowbudget tourists. For the native people, it seems like the tourist carries everything with them in a backpack. But believe me, it has no insult in it.


Is this used for white tourists in general?


just (western) backpackers. "Tây" means West, or from the West, but it used to refer mainly to French people, language, culture, etc. (because of the colonial era, of course). I think VNmese just use "(người) Tây" for any white tourists nowadays, or Westerners in general. (I don't live in VN, so I can't say for sure if it still the trendy word to describe white tourists. for sure, no one would misunderstand you if you use it)


Nowadays we still use the word "Tây" or "người Tây" to refer to Westerners from any Western country, so yeah, you get it right.


So "Khoai tây" is also a "Western" potato, as opposed to asian sweet potatoes?


Yes, "khoai tây" refers to potatoes. Sweet potatoes are also originally from the New World. However, "khoai" by itself seems to be used for both potato and sweet potato depending on context.

Other words with "khoai" :

  • khoai lang - sweet potato
  • khoai môn / khoai nước / khoai sọ - taro
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