Kho Khuat

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The writing of Kho Khuat (ฃ)

Kho Khuat (ฃ. ขวด) is the third letter of the Thai alphabet. It is a high consonant in the Thai tripartite consonant system (ไตรยางค์, informally อักษรสามหมู่). The letter is now rarely used, being replaced universally by kho khai (ข. ไข่). There are currently no words using kho khuat in Thai language according to the Royal Institute Dictionary of 1999, the official standard current dictionary of the Thai language. However, kho khuat still has an entry in most dictionaries stating that it is obsolete, and is included on alphabet charts to preserve the traditional count of 44 Thai consonants.

There is a minor movement for conservative spelling among some Thai publishers, one goal of which is to bring kho khuat and kho khon back into currency. One such publisher is Butterfly Book House (สำนักพิมพ์ผีเสื้อ), which publishes children's literature both by Thai authors and Thai translations of foreign authors, such as Roald Dahl. In its books, words like ขวด and คน are spelled ฃวด and ฅน, despite the fact that the apparently "conservative" spelling is sometimes arguably not the etymologically correct one, as with ฅน for คน. As for the latter, a 2006 film set in 1890's Siam and titled in Thai: ฅนไฟบิน Flying Fire Person (in English: Dynamite Warrior), uses ฅ kho khon to spell ฅน Person. Person is the standard example word for ฅ in consonantal charts, but is spelled คน.

Both the ฃ kho khuat and ฅ kho khon letters fell out of use at the same time when the first Thai script typewriters were brought to Thailand in 1896, for there was no space for all characters in their 84 key keyboard. Thus these two letters were chosen to be done away with. Even after the shift key was invented and the number of keys in typewriters was reduced to half, those two letters were not reinstated. The reasons why precisely these two letters were chosen and not others is not known, but neither ฃ kho khuat nor ฅ kho khon correspond to letters of the Sanskrit or the Pali alphabet.[1]

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