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I just found out that the Lao word for "kangaroo" doesn't appear to be a direct loan from English.

Both words are pronounced more or less as "ching choh".

In fact it doesn't seem to be from French, Chinese, or Vietnamese either.

Most languages just borrow the English word, but of the ones I can find that don't none of them look like the Lao and Thai words either.

Now it's plausible that "ching choh" somehow is related to "kangaroo" but if so it's changed more in the borrowing most loanwords from English or French that I've come across.

What is the actual etymology of these words?

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  • Seems Lao and Thai alphabets are virtually the same. Why they encode them differently? – Anixx Oct 14 '13 at 14:41
  • Just like with English compared to Greek or Cyrillic they're not exactly the same but some pairs of words are particularly similar. Each script has letters, diacritics, or ligatures not in the other. Before Unicode though I believe Lao did actually use the official Thai 8-bit encoding (TIS-620) somehow. – hippietrail Oct 14 '13 at 16:33
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  • Thanks @bytebuster - it's all a bit pie-in-the-sky until Rikker's answer. I didn't find anything from Googling. – hippietrail Oct 14 '13 at 17:09
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I can't comment on Lao, but I know that the Thai word originally meant "water skipper" (insects of the family Gerridae). Nowadays these bugs can be called จิงโจ้น้ำ /ciŋ.côo náam/, according to my older Thai neighbor. Thai-language.com includes this now-secondary meaning from the Royal Institute 1982 dictionary (http://thai-language.com/id/136374). You can also hear the old meaning in this traditional Thai song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GwUgGKmhTBI&index=7&list=PLLYDLIKdF24wF8Jn7TSMvxUUbe1XBmQDv (Trying to understand the lyrics to this song is what led me to this discovery.)

According to my neighbor, the marsupial got called a จิงโจ้ because it jumped like a water skipper. So it's not a recent loanword for kangaroo, though the original word for water skipper might be an older loan from somewhere.

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