Vowels 4 and 3, // versus /e/    305 pairs     [badbed.html]

There are hardly any unusual spellings of the contrasted vowels in this list, with // always spelled with <a> and /e/ with <e> except for <ai> in said and the letter names L, M, N and X. The sounds themselves are both short and fairly close in tongue position, setting problems for learners and even occasionally for native speakers. It is a known problem for Dutch, Scandinavian, German, French, Italian, Greek, Turkish, Hindi and Swahili speaking learners.

The only taboo word pair is crapped/crept.

Interesting pairs include:

alimentary elementary
canyon Kenyan
fanatic phonetic
malady melody
salary celery

The mean density is 2.8%. The 305 pairs make 200 semantic contrasts, giving a loading of 66%.

access excess
ad Ed
ad-man ad-men
added eddied
affluent effluent
  affluents effluents
Al L
Alf elf
Ali Ellie
alimentary elementary
Allan Ellen
allergy elegy
  allergies elegies
am M
amber ember
and end
Ann N
Annfield Enfield
Annie any
areca Erica 
arrant errant
aster Esther
at ate
ax X
axes X's
back beck
  backs becks
bad bed
bag beg
  bagged begged
  bagging begging
  bags begs
bally belly
band bend
  banded bended
  banding bending
  bands bends
banns bens
bant bent
barrow-man barrow-men
Barry Bury
Bass Bess
bat bet
  bats bets
  batted betted
  batting betting
batter better
  battered bettered
  battering bettering
  batters betters
begat beget
ban Ben
barrel beryl
barrels beryls
batty Betty
bland blend
blather blether
  blathered blethered
  blathering blethering
  blathers blethers
bogeyman bogeymen
brad bread
bran Bren
cameraman cameramen
canned kenned
can ken
  canning kenning
  cans kens
candle Kendal 
canny Kenny 
cant Kent 
canyon Kenyan 
  canyons Kenyans
capped kept
carry Kerry
catch ketch
  catches ketches
cattle kettle
caveman cavemen
chessman chessmen
clans cleanse
clam Clem
con-man con-men
crapped crept
crass cress
dab deb
  dabs debs
dad dead
Dakar decker
Dan den
Danny Denny
dally Delhi
drags dregs
expand expend
  expanded expended
  expanding expending
  expands expends
  expanse expense
  expanses expenses
  expansive expensive
  expansively expensively
fallow fellow
fanatic phonetic
fanatically phonetically
fanatics phonetics
fancies fences
fanned fend
fans fens
fatted fetid
fatter fetter
fattish fetish
fab Feb
fad Fed
flak fleck
flash flesh
  flashier fleshier
  flashiest fleshiest
  flashy fleshy
flax flecks
G-man G-men
gateau ghetto
  gateaus ghettos
gas guess
  gassed guessed 
  gasses guesses
  gassing guessing
GATT get
gnat net
  gnats nets
hack heck
  hacks hecks
hackles heckles
had head
Hadjis hedges
Hal hell
ham hem
  hammed hemmed
  hamming hemming
  hams hems
handyman handymen
hap hep
harasses heresies
Harold herald
he-man he-men
jam gem
  jams gems
jamb gem
  jambs gems
Jan gen
knack neck
knacks necks
lad lead
  lads leads
lag leg
  lagging legging
  lags legs
lambing lemming
land lend
  landing lending
  lands lends
lapped leapt
lass less
lat let
latter letter
lattice lettuce
  lattices lettuces
lantern Lenten
madly medley
mailman mailmen
malady melody
  maladies melodies
Malcolm Melcombe
mallow mellow
  mallows mellows
mambas members		
man men
man-of-war men-of-war
man-at-arms men-at-arms
manned mend
mansion mention
  mansions mentions
mantel mental
marry merry
massy messy
  massier messier
  massiest messiest
mat met
mad Med
mag Meg
minuteman minutemen
muffin-man muffin-men
muscleman musclemen
Nat net
overlapped overleapt
pack peck
  packed pecked
  packer pecker
  packers peckers
  packing pecking
  packs pecks
paddle pedal
  paddled pedalled
  paddles pedals
  paddling peddling
palate pellet
  palates pellets
palette pellet	 
  palettes pellets
pan pen
  panned penned
  panning penning
  pans pens
pap pep
parish perish
  parishes perishes
parry perry
pat pet
  pats pets
  patted petted
  patting petting
Patty petty
plaid pled
pressman pressmen
rack wreck
  racked wrecked
  racking wrecking
radish reddish
rand rend
  rands rends
rant rent
  ranted rented
  ranting renting
  rants rents
rap rep
  raps reps
rat ret
  ratted retted
  ratting retting
ratches retches
ravel revel
  ravelled revelled
  ravelling revelling
  ravels revels
Rennes ran
racks wrecks
sac sec
sacked sect
sacks secs
sad said
salary celery
salvage selvage
  salvages selvages
salves selves
sand send
  sanding sending
sandwichman
      sandwichmen
sans sends
sat set
satyr setter
  satyrs setters
saxes sexes
schoolman schoolmen
sapped Sept
shackle shekel
  shackles shekels
shad shed
shall shell
slapped slept
spanned spend
Stan Sten
superman supermen
tacks techs
tag teg
  tags tegs
tally telly
  tallies tellies
tallyman tallymen
tamp temp
  tamped tempt
  tamps temps
tamper temper
  tampered tempered
  tampering tempering
  tampers tempers
  tanned tend
tanner tenner
  tanners tenners
tans tens
taxed text
tack tech
tarry Terrr
than then
thrash thresh
  thrashed threshed
  thrashes threshes
  thrashing threshing
track trek
  tracked trekked
  tracking trekking
  tracks treks
trad tread
trainman trainmen
vacs vex
vassal vessel
  vassals vessels
vat vet
Geographical: Outside English-speaking countries, most visitors are from Poland, Hong Kong, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Spain, Ecuador, Venezuela, Malaysia, Costa Rica, Lithuania, Vietnam, Germany, Taiwan and Russia. Average 83 visitors per month.

John Higgins, Shaftesbury, October 2012