I had the good fortune some years back to have the chance to see behind the scenes of a west-end musical in the making. I was in fact making the ‘making-of’ video of this musical in the making, which never made it to the West End, the reasons for which were clear to all those making it. I digress.

The good fortune I speak of was witnessing the warm-up routine for the actors just before their performance. A sweaty musical director plonked away at a piano while he put the cast through their linguistic paces. That is, he gave them exercises to loosen up their voices for the two hour singing session they were about to embark upon. There were scales, of course, and lots of tra-la-la-la’s and me-me-me-me’s but to my surprise there was also red-lorry-yellow-lorry.

At the time I thought getting a room of professional actors to monotonously sing red-lorry-yellow-lorry was quite amusing, and in fact I had a hard job at the time of not bursting out laughing and sneering shamelessly.

Since having got over my adolescent sneering phase (which lasted well into my thirties) I am now in a position to appreciate this experience. You see, the exercise in question was designed to loosen up the front of the mouth, because the only way you can say ‘red lorry yellow’ repeatedly at speed – is if you just use the front of your mouth. i.e. pout as you say it.

I appreciate this now, because I now do this exercise myself a couple of times a week. Why? Well when you’ve been speaking English for a lengthy period, you can often find it difficult to switch into French, because it requires you to use a different part of your mouth. English is generally formed at the back of the mouth whereas French is generally formed at the front. So it helps to briefly loosen up the front of your mouth with a few exercises before you pop into the boulanger to ask for ‘une’ baguette.

Don’t believe me? Go on try it now…”red lorry yellow lorry red lorry yellow lorry red lorry yellow lorry red lorry yellow lorry red lorry yellow lorry red lorry yellow lorry red lorry yellow lorry …”

By the way this works regardless of dialect but it won’t work if you, say, Americanise it. Saying ‘red truck yella truck’ repeatedly in public will just make you sound like a redneck.