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Why does this ‘r’ appear only in ‘wash’ and ‘Washington’ without analogous examples? That is, why does this ‘r’ not also appear in similar constructions (like ‘posh’ (which is never pronounced ‘parsh’) or ‘to josh’ (which never allows for ‘I was jorshing/jarshing’))?

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    Tagged as american-english per @hippietrail’s suggestion. – Lucas Feb 19 '14 at 14:57
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    fdb deleted their answer, but I would've said the same thing that I've never heard of this in any variety of English. It sounds like some strange American counterpart to intrusive r?? – hippietrail Feb 19 '14 at 15:16
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    It's a regional peculiarity, reported from several places. In particular, it's part of my own speech, from DeKalb County, IL. It's very specific about lexical items, limited only to (1) wash and all its forms (washed, washes, washing), (2) the proper noun Washington (both as G. Washington's surname, and as the name of the capital city and of the state where I now live), and also (3) the interjection Gosh!. The intrusive /r/ is perhaps conditioned by the fact that it always precedes a palatal /ʃ/, not unlike the "ruki rule" of Sanskrit retroflexion of /s/ to /ṣ/ after /r, u, k, i/. – jlawler Feb 19 '14 at 17:48
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    I'm from Washington State, and I've heard it occasionally. – James Grossmann Feb 19 '14 at 20:23
  • My father from Michigan City, IN has this feature in his English. – virmaior May 21 '14 at 1:58
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In fact, it seems to be the case that you do get /r/ in those contexts and specific words (also, 'squash', etc.). It may be difficult to find them in text (e.g., for 'posh': 'porsh' and 'parsh' are both problematic for the speller), but they likely exist. I was able to find Google hits for 'jarsh'/'jarshing'/'jorshing', for example.

It is also possible that this kind of regularization rule is applied more for high-frequency words than for low-frequency. If 'wash', 'water' are much higher frequency than 'posh', 'josh', then it's reasonable to see fewer instances of 'jarsh'.

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    There is a related phenomenon in rural Utah, which is a regular swap of /or/ and /ar/; it's much remarked-on locally. Many people do it. For them car and core are pronounced /kor/ and /kar/, respectively. Not the opposite, which is standard. There are local peculiarities, and the topic comes up whenever cities like Spanish Fork and American Fork are mentioned. Wayne Booth even wrote a paper about it. – jlawler Feb 19 '14 at 22:43

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