Khaki/Kharki

Discuss word origins and meanings.
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Khaki/Kharki

Post by trolley » Mon Apr 16, 2018 11:50 pm

I was reminiscing the other day about some strange pronunciations my mom used. She was raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The Canadian east coast has a very unique accent, at times being mistaken for Irish or Scottish. The North American pronunciation of Khaki is “kackie” and the British is more like “kawkie”. To her, that drab greenish grey was “Karkie”. I wonder if she had misheard a Brit saying it…where the aw sound might be mistaken for a soft R. I couldn’t find any variation of the spelling containing an R and I’ve never heard anyone else say karkie, (unless they were talking about the key used to start the car). Maybe it was just an Atlantic Canada thing. Oddly, R does seem to show up now and again in American English where it doesn’t belong. I have heard Americans say “warshing machine” and I recall Archie Bunker talking about flushing the “terlet”.
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Re: Khaki/Kharki

Post by Phil White » Tue Apr 17, 2018 2:11 am

As far as I know, the "car key" pronunciation is standard in the UK. It's certainly the way I pronounce it. But because most English accents are "non-rhotic", there is no discernible "r" sound in there.

As far as the apparent addition of an "r" sound to some vowels or some phonetic clusters is concerned, have a look at "rhotacization", or more specifically "vowel rhotacization" (also "rhotacism" and "rhoticity") on the Web. It is common in some English accents and frequently acts as a social marker. Most of the discussion relates to whether (rhotic) or not (non-rhotic) a final "r" is pronounced in words like "car". If you really want to get genned up, you need to look at "r-colouring" and "retroflex vowels" as well. The phenomenon goes under many names...

Yes, the accents of Eastern Canada are quite confusing, at least to this Brit. There is a taxi driver around here who comes from Nova Scotia, and I could have sworn he was Northern Irish. And I had for a long time assumed that Lyse Doucet, Middle East correspondent for the BBC, was Irish. But she is from New Brunswick.
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Re: Khaki/Kharki

Post by trolley » Tue Apr 17, 2018 3:02 am

Thanks, Phil. Interesting stuff. I was familiar with the habit of pronouncing an “r” with a vowel sound. Someone in Boston might “pawk thu cah at the bah” if they were stopping in for a drink. Somehow, it never occurred to me that it could happen in the reverse.
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