To Lao or not to Laos

skeedary

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Has been interesting to me why there is a different interpretation of the usage of the word Lao or Laos and where and when either is used. The difference appears to be unique to Laos (or Lao). The letter "S" is not otherwise used in the Lao language to finish off a word. Laos with an ‘s’ was one solution in English for the country’s name. It could have been ‘Lao’, but it may well have been ‘Lao-land’, by literal translation from the Lao. This of course happened with Thailand when ‘Prathet Thai’ was translated as ‘Thai-land’. But, for reasons which are obscure to us, ‘Pathet Lao’ is not ‘Lao-land’ and nor is it a country called ‘Lao’. Indeed, the latter usage is quite marked in English, and when used by foreigners seems almost pretentious. Of course ‘Lao’ is perfectly correct in English when used as an adjective. For example: a Lao person, the Lao language, a Lao poem, etc. One other possibility that has tended to fall into-use is ‘Laotian’. So one can say: a Laotian person, the Laotian language, Laotian poem. This, however, seems to be losing out to the more economical ‘Lao’.

The old saying (in English) goes: "When in Rome do as the Romans do", but only if you are speaking Italian should you say ‘Italia’. Similarly in Laos, only if you are speaking Lao do you need to say ‘Lao’ when referring to the country.:deal
 

2wheels

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Good question; have often wondered the same.

This may help;

"I understand the Lao people call both their country and themselves "Lao", and that they don't , say "Laos" because a) they have no final "s" sound in their language, and b) they feel Laos is a colonial hangover.

I just checked Wikipedia, and they say that the country was originally three Laotian kingdoms, so the French called it Laos as a plural."

(Fodors Asia Forum)
 

The Bigfella

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Ah, three kingdoms. Fair enough.
 
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