Semantic drift: "khaki"

Dennis Preston preston at MSU.EDU
Mon Sep 17 11:52:16 UTC 2007


Isn't this the source of an old joke about an irate father who shot a
young suitor (from Boston of course) who said he left his "car keys"
in his daughter's room?

dInIs (who spent way too much time as an adolescent)

>---------------------- Information from the mail header
>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>Poster:       Lynne Murphy <m.l.murphy at SUSSEX.AC.UK>
>Subject:      Re: Semantic drift: "khaki"
>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 -

Dennis R. Preston
University Distinguished Professor
Department of English
Morrill Hall 15-C
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48864 USA

The American Dialect Society -

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