Cachemire, cashmere o kashmir? Come si scrive?

Cashmere, cashmere or kashmir? How do you spell that ?

Cashmere, cashmere O kashmir?

The correct wording of the word Cashmere, which we use a lot on our website, has led some readers and customers to ask us about it.

Not only them, but, as can also be seen from the website of the authoritative Accademia della Crusca, many users have turned to them for clarification on which is the correct diction to use.

We are of course talking about the famous fabric made from the wool produced by goats originating from the Indian region of Kashmir, the goat the goat

So here it is in an article that appeared on the official website of the well-known Accademia della Crusca, it seems that while Italians no longer have doubts about how to pronounce the name of this precious combed wool fabric ['kaʃmir], there are different ways they can choose to write it.

The most widespread ways of writing, according to the authoritative source, seem to be the "French" one, that is cashmere and the other to "English" i.e cashmere.

According to the Crusca academics, both ways of writing mentioned above are correct; you can opt for one or the other depending on whether you prefer to rely on the authority of dictionaries, which still favor cashmere, or follow current usage, more decidedly oriented towards cashmere.

The Accademia della Crusca refers verbatim in its interesting article the French-style spelling is implicitly chosen by the most recent editions of popular books usage dictionaries, which put cashmere as the main lemma: thus the Grande Dizionario Hoepli by Aldo Gabrielli (2015), the Devoto-Oli 2017, the Italian Garzanti dictionary (2017), the ZINGARELLI 2018, the Vocabulario Treccani online; GRADIT differs from this practice and adopts cashmere as its main lemma.

The abundance of variants, beyond these two which are the most popular (some dictionaries cite further forms such as cascimircascimirracashmerecasimircasimiracashmerecasimirrakashmir) testifies to the wide diffusion and vitality of this foreign voice.

The greatest difficulty in writing it, as it seems from the article taken from the Crusca website, is given by the rendering of the phoneme /ʃ/ (corresponding to the sound -sc- in descent) followed by a consonant, a problem, because it's not really Italian.

This phoneme /ʃ/, in the past was more easily associated with the sound of -That- French (eg. thatThatt, Thatf, sureche), but having recently had greater familiarity and contact with English in Italian, he is gradually associating this voice with the sound that -sh- has in English (e.g. crash, shampoo, shopping).

The academics do not stop only at dictionaries, which still remain a cornerstone of our written and spoken language, but with a very current approach they talk in their article about the Google search engine, which would now act as a mirror of the predominantly consolidated use of term, which at the time of writing the article provided 142 million results for cashmere and about 11 million per cashmere. Also not to be underestimated is the frequency ofthe word kashmir  that with 83 million results definitely exceeds that of cashmere.

The current greatest success, in the use of the English writing method cashmere can also be verified by considering other interesting data such as those referring to brand names sign in.

From a check carried out in 2017 by the Crusca academics among those deposited in Italy from 1980 to 2017 the word cashmere appears in 305 cases, cashmere in 35 e kashmir in 22  and has to do with both trademarks of names or signs of companies and products. 

About the history of the word Cashmere, we know that it derives its name from the Indian region of Kashmir the region of origin of the hircus goats from which the textile fiber of the same name is obtained.

Cashmere, cachemire o Kashmir? Come si scrive correttamente?

Together with the fabric, as reported by the Accademici della Crusca, which was initially made in English, it arrived in Italy and especially in Lombardy via France, also the word that named it and it would have done so via the French casimir, which in turn had taken it from English cassimer.

According to the lexicographic sources cited by the Accademici della Crusca, which we report in full: the first attestation of the word in Italian dates back to 1797, when, in the casimir form, it was recorded in the Dizionario universal critico-enciclopedico by D'Alberti of Villanova; in the same form, the casimir cloth had already been found since 1787 in the "Giornale delle Nuove Mode di Francia e d'England" (Milan, 1786-1794). The full entry into fashion of the casimir would instead only have occurred in the 1830s, as evidenced by the hundreds of attestations that appear in the "Corriere delle Dame" (Milan, 1804-1875) starting from this period. 

The first use of the voice in Italian cashmere seems to date back to the end of the 19th century, even if the form must have remained a minority at least for the entire first half of the 20th century, given that the Accademia della Crusca recalls as many as eight editions of the Modern dictionary (1905-1942) by Panzini who continued to report cashmere or possibly adaptation casmir, now declared old or obsolete by practically all current dictionaries.

The passing of the baton from cashmere a cashmere it seems it can be placed between the end of the 1980s and the very beginning of the 1990s, therefore a century after the first appearance of the form cashmere, probably due to the rampant Englishism that invaded our language from those years onwards.

Let's not forget that the word could sometimes be badly transcribed: it is not written casmere nor cassmere, as we occasionally see in some web searches.