The flexibility of lips (and tongues and larynxes and others)

If we were to find the perfect mate for Britain’s very famous stiff upper lip, you’d have to head towards the Bay of Bengal and come directly to South India. Stiff upper lip, meet Oh- so-flexible- that- loses- shape- and- collapses lip + tongue + larynx! Sparks fly, chemistry happens!

The place where I worked, in Edinburgh, was called mini India and for good reason. The evenings were filled with the sounds of ‘kaadha’ – telegu, ‘arrreeeyyy – hindi’ and (ewwww) ‘ok VA?’ – Tamil (will get back to this later). Most of the students found the work timings perfect and ‘most of the students’ being Indians, it was a great unity in diversity thing out there! (In fact once there was this huge row, because there was an India-Pakistan match going on, on one channel (yeah, we could watch TV at work!) and a Man U –some other team match on another one....ooh, the tension was palpable!)

Scottish names are pretty easy to pronounce, at least for us who roll the tongue in every possible dimension and the impossible dimensions too (try saying vaazhai pazham!). Our mother tongues are pretty complex as they are, combined with the necessity to be bi-lingual in our country, I think we can pronounce just about anything in this world (in our own accents of course.... ‘gelf’ anyone?!) But most of the natives I met, knew just one language. Petttre*. So, owing to some not so flexible upper lips, there were ‘Lacks mes’, ‘Shredderzhs’, ‘Vick has’s’ and many many more!

Coming back to the point, so, one day, my friend at work (yeah, she’s south Indian) hurriedly calls me and says, “Yuvan’s** looking for you”. I get all excited thinking that I’m finally going to get my break in the Tamil Film industry. Not sure if she perceived that or whether I had a puzzled look on my face, she said “Yuvan, Yuvan, that guy, who sits there” I was a little shocked (and disappointed =D) but the Yuvan guy had gone for a break, so I just went about doing my own work (and sulking a little!) when another Southie friend casually passes by and says, “Ivan wants to see you”. Before I could smartly answer that I was already seeing someone, this friend of mine jerked his head in the direction of ‘Ivan’. Which happened to be the exact direction of ‘Yuvan’. And in Yuvan/Ivan’s seat, sat my colleague ‘Ewan Scott’!! (Ok, I’ll confess that I had to ask the guy how in the world I pronounce his first name, before I got it right!!) It’s Ew as in you and an as in un – Ewan! Yuvan. Ivan. Now make your tongue touch the tip of your nose.

Now, to imagine Ewan singing “merke merke”***!!

*Tamil slang for English
**Yuvan Shankar Raja is a well known Tamil music director
*** merke merke is a famous tamil song composed by Yuvan Shankar Raja

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