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I have a purely Norwegian name, Kjetil. It is old norse and means "kettle" or "helmet". A couple of times now, aquaintances and new friends have asked me in chat or person how my name is really pronounced properly. Now, one of them found a youtube video for that:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hCBk62lX4I

However, sometimes I don't have access to the video. I have yet to find a single word in the English language that makes use of the first sound in my name, K+J. I have tried to find the correct name of the phonetic sound, but it doesn't seem to appear in charts: http://ipa.typeit.org/full/.

CH seems to be the closest I've found. SH is also close, but far too much forward on the tongue. Plus I don't really want to be called Shit-EL, which has happened a lot of times. It sounds like superman's bratty little brother.

So, what is the first sound of my name called, and are there any words in the English language that uses it?

PS: you can call me Cookie if you want.

Edit: This is actually a very important sound in the Norwegian language. It is widely used in everyday words. If you do it wrong, and pronounce it SH, you actually might end up saying rinsing (in water) when you meant chicken.

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  • I have a Norwegian friend with a very similar problem. The 'Kj' sound is not natural to English ears. I've heard him addressed a 'Cudgel -berg'. He usually accepts 'Sh', which is reasonably easy to explain.
    – Chenmunka
    Mar 1, 2016 at 16:21
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    It's a voiceless palatal fricative, which is apparently the same as the ch sound in German nicht, and there is no way you will be able to teach English speakers to say it without a lot of effort. Mar 1, 2016 at 16:41
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    The exact sound does not exist in English. There's no easy way to explain it. The transcription given on Wikipedia, /ç~ɕ/, to me suggests the sound at the start of "human," but I have no idea if this is actually a good match or not.
    – herisson
    Mar 1, 2016 at 16:41
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's about the pronunciation of a foreign word / name / phoneme, not English. Mar 1, 2016 at 16:47
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    I like the "Human" variant. It is actually much like human, only with a bit more closed mouth, creating the unvocalized whistle-sound. I think we can conclude with the fact that there are no English words using that Kj sound though...
    – jumps4fun
    Mar 2, 2016 at 9:18

1 Answer 1

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This is similar to the Russian "Shch" or "Щ". The most common way I've heard it explained is that the sound is halfway between 'Sh' and 'Ch'. If you stop moving your mouth, halfway between the words "Fresh" and "Cheese," you will be pronouncing the Norwegian 'Kj-,' or something very very close.

If you feel like teaching them to properly pronounce it, for real, tell them to make the 'Ch' sound, as in "CHeese," then bring their tongue back in their mouth, until the air stream is hitting the back of their bottom teeth. This should be the sound that your name starts with.

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  • As mentioned in the comments, I sit next to a russian woman at work. Unfortunately that sound is not correct. In my opinion, both Sh and Ch uses an active tip of the tongue. The Norwegian Kj- has a completely passive tip of the tongue, and uses the center of the tongue to make the sound. I would say that you need to say Ch- and then roll the tip of the tongue down to the bottom of your mouth.
    – jumps4fun
    Mar 2, 2016 at 9:19
  • Looking online, the Щ sound used to be pronounced 'shch' and still is in some dialects of Russian, but in other dialects it is now pronounced with a consonant quite similar to the Norwegian "kj". Apr 12, 2016 at 1:52

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