“The pronunciation of the word pronunciation is not pronounciation but pr-nun-see-ayshun”, so would quip the smart-ass in our class. It was sometime in the high school that I heard this first.
Conversing in English was rare in my school or college days. We could read and write decent English, but whether you studied in English medium or Malayalam medium, spoken English wasn’t that easy for the urban – impossible for the rural – Malayalee children of the 60s and 70s. In those days there wasn’t any school that would punish students if they talked in any language other than English while at school. BBC and News in English from AIR were the only way we could listen to good spoken English; and of course the occasional English movies.
One of the reasons for the oft ridiculed ‘Mallu- English’, is the emphasis on clear enunciation in Malayalam. Clarity and accentuation of syllables is very important in good Malayalam; this is why most non-Malayalis say that Malayalam is the most difficult language to learn. With Sanskrit as the root of grammatical Malayalam literature and Tamil as the root of spoken Malayalam, the potpourri of Malayalam vocabulary and the diction is beyond the ken of aliens.
But it pains to listen to Malayalam TV newsreaders and anchors. For example they’d pronounce Bhaarya as Baarya or Khedam as Kedam. Worse are the young things with fake anglicized Malayalam accent and the snobbish Valluvanadan ( Trichur and beyond till Palakkad) accents.
I personally have difficulties with the subtleties of ‘O’. God, dog. Love, cloak, poke, spot, sport, joke, rock, mock - K has often tried to correct me, but in vain. And the more I am conscious of my ‘O’, the worse it turns out to be!
Therefore all I could do to console myself was to – write a poem!
“Mind your Ps and Qs!”
But I always had a mind of my own!
I never did get my Os all right,
My phonetics was always trite.
The O in love, like O in lost? Or O in loath?
Like O in loin? Or O in lonely?
LOud? LOusy? Or lOnging in the heart?
I never got the hang of love at all.
My Ts were quite all right.
Like the T in trust.
Like the T in true,
Trundling along, trudging alone.
Never did I ever, fuck up my Fs.
The F in faith, F in freedom,
F in fair and fun.
Weren’t I a fool, though, to let the girl go?
******************* Trivandrum 09.09.2004
Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 11-06-2011