Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Oahu, Hawaii
Knife or sword
This is a great thread y'all have really made me think and I even sucked my wife into this discussion to clarify some points on language usage.
Excellent points Tom and Andrew, actually the photo that Dennee supplied illustrates this discussion extremely well. As Ian has already correctly identified these I'll talk about the terms in the Thai language used to identify these blades. "meed" is the term used to identify cutting blades in Thai while it can be translated as knife "cutting blade" is more accurate in actual usage. "meed darb" or shortened to just "darb" specifically refers to swords as does the term dha I believe unless modified by a second word.
The rattan knifes in Dennees picture are also called "meed wai", the coconut knifes are called "meed phraa" (chopping blade) now these terms may vary slightly according to region as may the shapes but they all carry the same connotation, that of a utility blade. They were made with a single usage in mind.
To be classified as a dha (darb) they must at least have a dual use as a fighting weapon (yes knives can be fighting weapons, but NOT a main battle weapon) or be designed solely as a fighting weapon. That means it must have the length to reach through an opponent's guard or past his/her shield. It must also have speed of manuveur. Heavy knives and shorter blades don't meet that criteria (and please don't argue fighting techniques - I'm discussing actual usage of the terms). The two on the right in Dennee's photo have that length and would would meet the minimal dual use criteria and the range criteria and would be referred to in Thai as darb or meed darb.
Tom, I think you should see some difference in intent, however I agree you won't see many differences in design or construction in most of the lower class swords as these were generally made by the same village smiths that made the knives. Only the higher grade swords would show that variance in design and construction, and that was usually directed by the person commissioning the blade. Additionally, as with most things, you have those that make the high-end stuff and those that have found their market niche in the low-end.
That top one looks more like a panabas to me - never seen one like it in Siam.