Semantic drift: "khaki"

Lynne Murphy m.l.murphy at SUSSEX.AC.UK
Mon Sep 17 13:12:36 UTC 2007

I don't know about semantic drift, but this is one word that always throws
me in British English, in which it tends to sound like 'car key' (much
longer vowel than AmE on the first syllable).  When someone asked me to
fetch her khaki trousers, I was looking through the pockets to figure out
which ones she meant...


--On Sunday, September 16, 2007 11:56 pm -0400 Amy West
<medievalist at W-STS.COM> wrote:

> My brother, who trained me to spit-shine, used to starch his fatigues
> as a youngster. They were olive drab or camouflage. I think the only
> khaki-coloring I saw in his uniforms were in his desert camies. We
> never called his uniforms anything but "fatigues", less frequently
> BDUs (basic duty uniform?). Again, this is late 1970s.
> I have heard khakis refer to the style of pants also known as chinos:
> for example, at one point at the museum job we were told to wear
> khakis and a golf shirt as a uniform.
> ---Amy (Again, not a lot of help) West
>> Date:    Sat, 15 Sep 2007 14:14:22 -0700
>> From:    Dave Wilton <dave at WILTON.NET>
>> Subject: Re: Semantic drift: "khaki"
>> IIRC, the US Army abandoned its tropical/summer khaki uniforms in the
>> early 1980s, leaving only the olive-drab uniform. I would suspect that
>> if the meaning shifted it would be after this date, at least in American
>> usage.
>> During the 60s and 70s there was a true US Army khaki uniform, which
>> would have been worn in tropical Vietnam. Perhaps Heinemann is referring
>> to the true khaki uniform and this is being misinterpreted.

Dr M Lynne Murphy
Senior Lecturer in Linguistics and English Language
Arts B135
University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9QN

phone: +44-(0)1273-678844

The American Dialect Society -

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