The Kurious Kase of Kontroversial K

Published 25th July 2011
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The Kurious Kase of Kontroversial K

The history of the letter K spans a period of over two thousand years. Starting out as a hieroglyph in ancient Egypt! It was shared among the Semites, the Phoenicians, the Etruscans and the Greeks before culminating in the Latin character that we recognise today. K’s history is closely intertwined with those of its sister letters C and Q. Because of the close relationship with these two letters, they sound similar and are often interchangeable. Much to the ire of a great many people. However, the correct choice is essential for professional translation services.

The difference between how a word is written and how it actually sounds is a problem for natives and learners alike. Surely it would be much simpler to spell it how you say it? This is heavily favoured in Northern and Eastern European languages. Languages such as German, Dutch, Swedish and Czech. Simply swapping Ks for Cs in many German words will give you an almost equivalent English spelling. For example: Dokument, Katalog and Kultur. This knowledge is vital to be able to offer professional translation services.


By taking a phonetic approach, words such as queen, collide, discover and kick would be transformed into kween, kolyd, diskuver and kik. There have been several movements spanning from the 16th century to the present day that have pushed for English language spelling reform in order to combat these linguistic oddities. However, due to the immense size of the English lexicon, to change every single hard C sound to a K to suit such a small number of words would be counter-productive in the long run.

Though these versions may be more phonetically faithful, you have to concede that they lose a lot of their original beauty. They lack a certain je ne sais quoi. They also lose much of their etymological value. We may complain that the English language sticks in Hs, Us and Gs without any logical reasoning behind it. These letters show a word’s journey from its humble beginnings thousands of years ago to how it is used nowadays. They are vestigial evidence of a word’s evolution. To change a word because it is difficult to spell is like saying you want to tear down an old building to make a car park. Standardisation would take away much of a word’s character. Making it bog-standard and ‘regular’. Where’s the fun in that? We should be proud of our native tongue’s quirks! Rather than lament their sometimes unwieldy natures.

So! How many K sounds were posing as Cs in this very post?

To find out more about the services provided by Lingua Translations, have a look at our professional translation services page.


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