The /k/ sound is spelled with <c>, <k> or <qu> pronounced /kw/ initially, and <ck> or <ke> medially or finally. Two exceptional spellings are <qu> in pique and <ch> in Reich, though many English speakers will use a fricative in the latter. The /s/ sound is normally spelled with <s> or <c> initially. Medially or finally there are many spellings, including <ce>, <sce>, <s> and <ss>. There are also oddities like inital <ps> in psalm. Notice who the homograph bass makes pairs with back and bake, and close with cloak and slows.
The /s/ sound also occurs in the letter name C. An interesting sidelight on this is brought out by the work of David Cargill, the missionary who worked out the orthography of Fijian in the 1830s. Using <k> for /k/ and <s> for /s/, he used <c> for /Ɵ/, for which his memory was subsequently blessed by Fijian schoolchildren learning to read and cursed by colonial administrators. There is a legend, plausible but unsupported by any documentary evidence, that he asked his printer for Greek thetas, and the printer told him he didn't have any but he did have leftover cases of letter C.
The contrast is between a velar stop and an alveolar fricative, both voiceless. It causes no problems in itself, although the inconsistent spelling of words with /s/ may give rise to errors.
Interesting pairs include:
Taboo word pairs include: arc/arse, coon/soon, fuck/fuss and pick/piss.
The mean density value is 2.3%. The list makes 316 semantic distinctions, a loading of 55%.
ache ace actor aster actors asters alack alas Alnwick anise arc arse ark arse back bass backed bast bake base baked based baking basing bake bass baker baser bark baas basic basis beck Bess brake brace braked braced braking bracing buck bus bucked bused bucking busing buckle bustle buckled bustled buckles bustles buckling bustling burked burst caber sabre cabers sabres cable sable cables sables cache sash caches sashes cachet sachet cachets sachets cad sad cage sage cages sages cake case caked cased caking casing cake sake cakes sakes calk coarse calk course calked coursed calking coursing callow sallow calm psalm calms psalms calmest psalmist calorie salary calories salaries cam Sam camber samba cambers sambas came same candid sanded candle sandal candles sandals candy sandy cane sane cane seine caned seined canes seines caning seining canned sand cans sans cap sap capped sapped capping sapping caps saps cash sash cashes sashes cat sat caught sort caught sought cause saws cause sores cave save caved saved caves saves caving saving caw saw cawed sawed cawing sawing caws saws caw soar caws soars cawed soared caw sore caws sores check chess checked chest chord sawed chord sword chords swords clack slack clacked slacked clacking slacking clacks slacks clam slam clammed slammed clamming slamming clams slams clang slang clanged slanged clanging slanging clangs slangs clap slap clapped slapped clapping slapping claps slaps clash slash clashed slashed clashes slashes clashing slashing clave slave claw slaw clay slay cleat sleet cleats sleets cleave sleeve cleaved sleeved cleaves sleeves clerk class clerked classed clerking classing clew slew clewed slewed clewing slewing clews slews climb slime cling sling clinging slinging clings slings clink slink clinking slinking clinks slinks clip slip clipped slipped clips slips clipper slipper clippers slippers clique sleek cliques sleeks cloak close clobber slobber clobbered slobbered clobbering slobbering clobbers slobbers cloche slosh cloches sloshes clog slog clogged slogged clogging slogging clogs slogs close sloes close slows clot slot clots slots clotted slotted clotting slotting clue slew clued slewed cluing slewing clues slews clump slump clumped slumped clumping slumping clumps slumps clung slung clunk slunk Co sew Co so Co sow coal sole coaling soling coals soles coaled soled coal soul coals souls coaled sold coax soaks cob sob cobs sobs cock cos cock sock cocking socking cocks socks cocked cost cocker soccer cod sod codded sodded codding sodding cods sods coda soda codas sodas code sewed code sowed coil soil coiled soiled coiling soiling coils soils coke soak coked soaked coking soaking cokes soaks coked coast col Sol cone sewn column solemn come some come sum comes sums coming summing comer summer comers summers conic sonic convocation conversation convocations conversations coo Sioux coo sou coos sous coon soon coop soup cooped souped coops soups cooping souping cooper super coopers supers cop sop copping sopping cops sops copped sopped cope soap coped soaped copes soaps coping soaping copier soppier Copt sopped copy soppy copyist soppiest cor saw coral sorrel corals sorrels cord sawed cord sword cords swords core saw cores saws cored sawed core soar cores soars cored soared coring soaring cork coarse cork course corked coursed corking coursing corker coarser corkers coursers corn sawn correct caressed corrie sorry corse sauce corses sauces corse source corses sources cos sock cot sot cots sots coughed soft couple supple course sauce courses sauces coursed sauced coursing saucing course source courses sources coursed sourced coursing sourcing courser caucer coursers saucers court sort courted sorted courting sorting courts sorts court sought cow sow cows sows coward soured cower sour cowering souring cowers sours Cowes sows coy soy crack crass creak crease creaked creased creaking creasing crock cross crocked crossed crocking crossing cub sub cubs subs cuff sough cuffed soughed cuffing soughing cuffs soughs cunning sunning cup sup cups sups cupped supped cupping supping Cupar super cuppa supper cuppas suppers cur sir curs sirs curd surd curly surly curlier surlier curliest surliest curry Surrey curse kirk curt cert curtain certain curve serve curved served curves serves curving serving cuss suss cusses susses cussing sussing cussed sussed cutler subtler cycle sisal defrocked defrost dejected digested detect detest detectable detestable detected detested detecting detesting detects detests dike dice diked diced diking dicing disinfect disinfest disinfected disinfested disinfecting disinfesting disinfects disinfests dock doss docked dossed docking dossing docker dosser dockers dossers Doric Doris dost ducked ducked dust duct dust ducts dusts duke deuce eked east elk else fake face faked faced faking facing flock floss flocked flossed flocking flossing fork force forked forced forking forcing fuck fuss fucked fussed fucking fussing gawk gorse Greek grease Greek Greece hacked hast hackle hassle hackles hassles hawk hoarse hawker hoarser hick hiss incest insect incursion insertion incursions insertions infect infest infected infested infecting infesting infects infests inject ingest injected ingested injecting ingesting injects ingests irk Erse jockeys josses K say kail Sale Kate sate keel seal keels seals keeled sealed keeling sealing keeling ceiling kenned send kens sends Kent cent Kent scent Kent sent kept Sept kettle settle kettles settles key C keys C's key see keys sees keying seeing keyboard seaboard keyboards seaboards keyed cede keyed seed khaki sake kick kiss kicked kissed kicking kissing kick sick kicks sicks kicking sicking kicked sicked kidney Sidney killer Scylla killers Scyllas kilt silt kilts silts kind signed kine sign kink sink kinking sinking kinks sinks kiss sis kissed cyst kisses cissies kite cite kites cites kitty city kitties cities lack lass lackey lassie lackeys lasses lake lace larked last leak lease leaked leased leaking leasing leek lease licked list like lice lock loss locked lost lucre looser mac mass make mace marked mast Mick Miss Mickey missy mickle missal Mike mice mock moss muck muss mucked mussed mucking mussing muckle muscle murky mercy neck ness necked nest nectar Nestor package passage packages passages park pass parked passed parking passing peak peace peak piece peaked pieced peaking piecing peccary pessary peccaries pessaries pecked pest pelvic pelvis perk purse perked pursed perking pursing perky Percy pick piss picked pissed picking pissing pique peace pique piece piqued pieced piquing piecing pluck plus pocket posset pockets possets poked post protect protest protected protested protecting protesting protects protests protector protester protectors protesters puck pus puke puce Q sue Q's sues qua sway quagga swagger quaggas swaggers quell swell quelled swelled quelling swelling quells swells queue sue queuing suing queues sues queued sued queued pseud quill swill quills swills quiz swiz rake race raked raced raking racing Reich rice rucked rust sauce coarse sauce course sauces courses seek cease source coarse source course sources courses spake space spark sparse spike spice spiked spiced spiking spicing spiky spicy spikier spicier spikiest spiciest suck suss sucked sussed sucking sussing tackle tassel tackled tasseled tackles tassels Tech Tess trek tress tricked tryst truck truss tunic Tunis Turk terse unkind unsigned victor vista victors vistas waked waist work worse worked worst wrecked rest wricked wrist
John Higgins, Shaftesbury, April 2010.