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On Rhiannon Brooksbank-Jones’ Tongue Surgery

I must admit, as someone who’s been teaching Koreans English for a decade now (more, if you include the Koreans in my classes at Concordia University in Montreal). I’m extremely dubious about this:

Student Rhiannon Brooksbank-Jones dreams of living and working in South Korea once she finishes university, even though she has never visited the country.

But while taking language lessons, the 19-year-old found that she couldn’t pronounce certain crucial sounds in the Korean alphabet.

Her dentist suggested it may be because she was born with a slightly shorter than average tongue, caused by having an unusually thick lingual frenulum – the flap of skin that joins the underside of the tongue to the floor of the mouth.

After discussing the matter with her parents and language tutor, Rhiannon decided to undergo an operation to correct the condition, despite the fact it has never caused her any problems in speaking English.

She underwent a lingual frenectomy, which involves making an incision in the flap of skin. As a result, Rhiannon’s tongue is now about 1cm longer, and she can say words that were impossible before.

Yeah, well, she says so. I’d like to hear her say 닭볶음밥  before taking her word for it, though.

There are a few things that struck me about this:

Not to rain on her parade. It’s fine to be into a foreign language and culture. Maybe she is one of those rare souls who did need it and somehow nobody noticed when she was pronouncing English funny all these years. Maybe she’s being smart and calculated all of this and is fast-tracking her way to white-celebrity-in-Korea status. White girls are nonthreatening, after all, unlike white males, and getting more and more media attention. And she has been going to Korean church, watching Korean TV, and so on… she must know something about some of this stuff, at least.

But as for the tongue surgery, I’m quite dubious. I’d love to hear what a linguist or, better yet, a speech therapist with experience with Korean and Anglo patients would have to say about it. I expect dubiousness from any such specialist too.

Ah well: I wonder what will happen when this young lady gets to Korea. Hmm.

1. 백마 means “white horse” — an old Korean euphemism for having sex with a white woman, as far as I understand it, is to “ride the white horse”; meanwhile, 백년 is a pun on two homophones: “100 years” or “white b*tches”. I rather doubt either name would really be used, though the attitudes of producers, or of audiences, might well match the names I’ve suggested… in all of their unsettling dimensions.

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