Lost in Translation | Tamil Consonant Mnemonics 2


Vengeeswarar temple at vadapalani chennai.

Vengeeswarar temple at vadapalani chennai. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, with this post, I conclude my initial study for last month’s remaining Tamil pure consonants; the lateral sounds, the fricatives, the glides, and the Grantha letters for those sounds and words borrowed from Sanskrit.

The mnemonic, like last time’s, is a story heavy with cues to the shapes and sounds of the letters they relate to. It will sound silly, not to poke fun at the language, but to help memorization. Here it is, and I explain my somewhat tortured reasoning afterward:

Six lurking ewes leaped¹ six meters at a troll with a skull², as its rage³ was mad, made to fear⁴. Laboring drudgingly, jesters emerged and zhooshed⁵ up the King in Yellow’s palace⁶, before he chose twenty-one of them to vote on war⁷ against the jealous cobras⁸. Jumping in, twenty-nine of these shredded⁹ the choicest of their very naive servants¹⁰, while sixty-two of the many hordes¹¹ of functional T-629 Terminators¹² left maneuvers against orders and were dismantled, shrieking terribly¹³.

Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 23.51.06

1. Six(for the numeral) and ewes(a pun on the Roman letter u) describe the shape of the letter, while lurking and leaped suggests the Tamil letter’s sound. Besides, evil or even mildly sinister female sheep can be scary if you’re a troll.

2. Six(as above) and meters(using the letters m, t, and r as a mnemonic code for the numbers 3, 1, and 4, the first three digits of Pi) are cues to the shape of the Tamil letter, while troll and skull hint at the letter’s sound as per its type.

3. Its suggests the Roman letters I and T, and with the pulli, the shape of the Tamil letter. The r in rage is a cue to the letter’s sound in the vernacular.

4. Mad and made are repeated letter shape cues, to the letter’s very rough resemblance to a Roman letter m. The r at the end of fear is a sound cue, properly trilled, or rolled, of course.

5. Laboring, drudgingly, and jesters are cues to the Roman letters L, D, and J, which when combined, suggest the Tamil letter’s shape minus the pulli. The r in emerged and the zh in zhooshed (Yes, that’s a real word in English. It means to make something more exciting, lively, or attractive.) are sound cues.

6. Up combines the resemblance of the left half of the letter to a Roman u and the resemblance of the right half to a Tamil letter ப், pronounced p or b. Yellow suggests the glide sound y, while King and palace are simply filler to add coherence, plus a little Cthulhu Mythos reference thrown in for good measure. After all, what’s the King in Yellow without his haunted palace in Carcosa?

7. Chose is partly mnemonic code for the numeral six, and with twenty-one, serves to suggest the letter’s vague resemblance to the number 621. Vote and war are cues to the glide sounds v and w represented by the letter.

Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 23.51.47

8. Jealous is a cue for the letter’s sound, j, cobra suggests its shape, to me evoking the image of a snake preparing to strike.

9. Jumping is a cue to the number six as well, and with twenty-nine suggests the letter’s shape, the number 629. The sh in shredded suggests the sound of the consonant.

10. Choicest and naive are codes to letter shape, the numeral six and a curvy, ornate Roman letter N while the s in servants suggests the letter’s sound.

11. Sixty-two and many are recognition cues, the letter resembling the number 62 followed by a letter m with an understroke. The h in hordes suggests the letter’s sound, as well as fitting the narrative and aiding recall.

12. The 4th-6th letters in functional are an obvious clue to pronunciation for English speakers, and T-629 suggests the shape of the letter, in a way that’s intuitive to a Westerner like me – very early model Terminators never shown in the movie franchise, likely prior to da Ah-nold himself – as far as a superficial and suggestive similarity to the Roman letter T hyphenated with the number 629 is concerned.

13. Left, maneuvers, and terribly suggest a resemblance, very sketchy but close enough, to the letters L, M, and T squashed together, minus the understroke and the dependent vowel sign, and the shri in shrieking a clue, but not a fully accurate representation of the sound, but close enough to remember.

This was fun, and provided a lot of opportunity in tweaking the mnemonics. This month I resume fuller study of Hindi, with recall practice of Tamil, Bengali, and other subjects to be conducted as well.

Stay cool, stay brilliant.

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