June 05, 2009

Gun Throat

Another example of eccentric South Indian English, this one found in Green Well Years, an autobigraphical novel by the artist Manohar Devadoss about growing up in Madurai.
She had a 'gun-throat' and explained to the doctor her 'menses problems' in a voice so loud that the entire household came to know what they were.
If you want to insult a blowhard, call him a beerangi vaya, or 'cannon mouth' in colloquial Tamil. Gun throat is a less pejorative term that describes someone with a loud, thundering voice.
I insist that you switch off your mobile phone. Never will I forget the lowlife who answered a string of business calls throughout The Fellowship of the Rings in a gun-throat voice. (C. K. Meena, The Rules of Movie-Going, The Hindu, May 15 2003)

...my bladder decides to speak up. And not in little whispers either. Nope, this is a gun throat variety of bladder. It screams so loud that you have answer the call immediately or risk some embarrassing one year old suited behaviour. (life through pink colour glasses, November 21 2005)

I have been lucky, I have what people call a ‘Gun Throat’. As soon as I thunder into the microphone, the audience has no chance but to listen! (Shaly Pereira, Look Who's Talking, Mangalorean.com, September 20 2005)


Rajapart is a piece of Tamil theatre jargon from the 1930s, referring to the lead role in a play. The word mixes Tamil and English: rajapart is the 'king's part', the hero's role in costume dramas staged by the travelling theatre troupes of the time. I found the term in the autobiography of Sivaji Ganesan, the legendary Tamil actor who started out in one such 'boys' company' during this period, and also appeared in a film titled Rajapart Rangadurai later in his career.
In the theatre jargon of those days, I wanted to play Rajapart which was the role of a King. I appealed to my teacher demonstrating to him my prowess at playing this role. Gradually the number of female roles that came to me lessened and I was given male roles, and finally, I reached the status of a Rajapart actor. I was considered one of the most important actors in the troupe. (Sivaji Ganesan, Autobiography of an Actor, ed. by T. S. Narayana Swamy. Translated English edition, Chennai 2007)
Elsewhere in the text, Ganesan introduces the following terms, which illustrate the eccentric manner in which Tamil speakers tend to adopt English words.
Iron Streepart means a very important female part and similarly Iron Rajapart means a very important male role.
Why iron? I've been scratching my head, but the best I've got is this equation: iron=something strong=something very important. Maybe someone out there has a better explanation?