The spelling of /t/ is usually <t> or <tt>, but we also often see <ght>, <th> in Thame, and a silent-letter combinations <bt> in debt. The /k/ sound is usually <c>, or <k> initially and <ck> medially or finally. We also see <qu> in toque. The homograph inter makes pairs with inker and incur.
The contrast is between two voiceless plosives, well separated in the mouth. It may be a problem for some learners, especially when final in the syllable.
Pairs involving taboo words are cot/cock, trap/crap, shat/shack and phut/fuck.
Interesting pairs include:
The mean density value is 3.3%. The list makes 424 semantic distinctions, a loading of 52%.
This contrast features in Chapter 22 of Samuel Butler's novel The Way of All Flesh, which should be compulsory reading for all pronunciation teachers and speech therapists, indeed all teachers.
In the course of the evening they came into the drawing-room, and, as an especial treat, were to sing some of their hymns to me, instead of saying them, so that I might hear how nicely they sang. Ernest was to choose the first hymn, and he chose one about some people who were to come to the sunset tree. I am no botanist, and do not know what kind of tree a sunset tree is, but the words began, "Come, come, come; come to the sunset tree for the day is past and gone." The tune was rather pretty and had taken Ernest's fancy, for he was unusually fond of music and had a sweet little child's voice which he liked using.
He was, however, very late in being able to sound a hard "c" or "k," and, instead of saying "Come," he said "Tum tum, tum."
"Ernest," said Theobald, from the arm-chair in front of the fire, where he was sitting with his hands folded before him, "don't you think it would be very nice if you were to say 'come' like other people, instead of 'tum'?"
"I do say tum," replied Ernest, meaning that he had said "come."
Theobald was always in a bad temper on Sunday evening. Whether it is that they are as much bored with the day as their neighbours, or whether they are tired, or whatever the cause may be, clergymen are seldom at their best on Sunday evening; I had already seen signs that evening that my host was cross, and was a little nervous at hearing Ernest say so promptly "I do say tum," when his papa had said he did not say it as he should.
Theobald noticed the fact that he was being contradicted in a moment. He got up from his arm-chair and went to the piano.
"No, Ernest, you don't," he said, "you say nothing of the kind, you say 'tum,' not 'come.' Now say 'come' after me, as I do."
"Tum," said Ernest, at once; "is that better?" I have no doubt he thought it was, but it was not.
"Now, Ernest, you are not taking pains: you are not trying as you ought to do. It is high time you learned to say 'come,' why, Joey can say 'come,' can't you, Joey?"
"Yeth, I can," replied Joey, and he said something which was not far off "come."
"There, Ernest, do you hear that? There's no difficulty about it, nor shadow of difficulty. Now, take your own time, think about it, and say 'come' after me."
The boy remained silent a few seconds and then said "tum" again.
I laughed, but Theobald turned to me impatiently and said, "Please do not laugh, Overton; it will make the boy think it does not matter, and it matters a great deal;" then turning to Ernest he said, "Now, Ernest, I will give you one more chance, and if you don't say 'come,' I shall know that you are self-willed and naughty."
He looked very angry, and a shade came over Ernest's face, like that which comes upon the face of a puppy when it is being scolded without understanding why. The child saw well what was coming now, was frightened, and, of course, said "tum" once more.
"Very well, Ernest," said his father, catching him angrily by the shoulder. "I have done my best to save you, but if you will have it so, you will," and he lugged the little wretch, crying by anticipation, out of the room. A few minutes more and we could hear screams coming from the dining-room, across the hall which separated the drawing-room from the dining-room, and knew that poor Ernest was being beaten.
"I have sent him up to bed," said Theobald, as he returned to the drawing-room, "and now, Christina, I think we will have the servants in to prayers," and he rang the bell for them, red-handed as he was.
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coking coats cokes coats coax comet comic comets comics cot cock cots cocks cottar cocker cottars cockers court calk courting calking courts calks court cork courting corking courts corks crate crake crates crakes cubit cubic curt kirk dart dark debt Dec debt deck debts decks debtor decker debtors deckers dirt dirk ditty Dicky ditty dickey ditties dickeys dot dock dots docks dotting docking dost dusk dust dusk dusty dusky dustier duskier dustiest duskiest eat eke eating eking eats ekes eight ache eights aches entrust encrust entrusted encrusted entrusting encrusting entrusts encrusts fate fake fates fakes fête fake fêtes fakes fêting faking fits fix flat flak flats flax flit flick flits flicks flitting flicking flute fluke flutes flukes fort fork forts forks fought fork ghat gawk ghats gawks ghetto gecko ghettos geckoes gnat knack gnats knacks greet Greek greets Greeks hart hark harts harks hat hack hats hacks hate hake heart hark hearts harks height hike heights hikes hit hick hits hicks hot hock hots hocks hotting hocking hotly Hockley inter inker inter incur interred incurred interring incurring inters incurs jot Jock jotted jockeyed Kate cake kit kick kits kicks kitting kicking knit nick knitting nicking knits nicks knitters knickers knot knock knots knocks knotting knocking lat lack late lake latter lacquer light like lighting liking lights likes light-minded like-minded lightly likely looter lucre lot loch lots lochs lotus locus mart mark marts marks martyr marker martyrs markers mast mask masts masks mate make mates makes mating making mat mac mats macs matt mac meat meek meditate medicate meditated medicated meditates medicates meditating medicating meditation medication meditations medications meter meeker might mike milt milk mince minx mince minks minced Minsk missed misc mite mike mites mikes mitts mix moat moke moats mokes mussed musk musty musky mustier muskier mustiest muskiest mutt muck mutts mucks Nat knack natter knacker natters knackers net neck nets necks netting necking nit nick nits nicks oat oak oats oaks overtook overcook part park parting parking parts parks party parky pastel paschal pat pack pats packs patting packing patter packer patters packers peat peak peaty peaky peatier peakier peatiest peakiest pert perk pet peck pets pecks petting pecking Pete peak pettish peckish phut fuck pits pyx port pork porter porker porters porkers pot pock pots pocks putt puck putts pucks putter pucker puttered puckered puttering puckering putters puckers quit quick quitter quicker rat rack rats racks ratting racking rat wrack rats wracks ratting wracking rate rake rates rakes rating raking ret wreck retting wrecking right Reich rights Reichs rite Reich rites Reichs rot roc rots rocs rot rock rots rocks rotting rocking rotter rocker rotters rockers rust rusk rusts rusks rut ruck ruts rucks rutting rucking sat sac sate sake sates sakes seat seek seating seeking seat Sikh seats Sikhs set sec sets secs shat shack shirt shirk shirting shirking shirts shirks shot shock shots shocks shut shuck shuts shucks shutting shucking silt silk silts silks sit sic sit sick sits sicks sitting sicking slat slack slats slacks slate slake slates slakes slating slaking slattern slacken slatterns slackens sleet sleek sleeting sleeking sleets sleeks slit slick slits slicks smote smoke sonnet sonic sot sock sots socks spate spake spit spick spite spike spites spikes spiting spiking stab scab stabs scabs stack scat staff scarf staffs scarfs stain skein stains skeins stair scare stairs scares stale scale staled scaled stales scales staling scaling stalled scald stamp scamp stamped scamped stamping scamping stamps scamps Stan scan stand scanned star scar stars scars starred scarred starring scarring stare scare stares scares stared scared staring scaring starlet scarlet starlets scarlets start stark starter starker starters starkers starves scarves state skate stated skated states skayes stating skating state stake stating staking states stakes step skep steps skeps steppes skeps sterility scurrility stew skew steward skewered stiff skiff stiffs skiffs stoat stoke stoats stokes stool school stools schools stoop scoop stooped scooped stooping scooping store score stored scored stores scores storing scoring stout scout strap scrap strapped scrapped strapping scrapping straps scraps stream scream streamed screamed streaming screaming streams screams street streak streets streaks strew screw strewed screwed strewing screwing strews screws strip scrip strips scrips stripped script stroll scroll strolls scrolls strum scrum strums scrums strut struck stud scud studded scudded studding scudding studs scuds stuff scuff stuffed scuffed stuffing scuffing stuffs scuffs stunk skunk sty sky sties skies subtle suckle T key T's keys T quay T's quays tab cab tabs cabs tabby cabby tabbies cabbies table cable tabled cabled tables cables tabling cabling tabor caber tabors cabers tackle cackle tackled cackled tackles cackles tackling cackling tail kail take cake takes cakes taking caking tale kail talk calk talked calked talking calking talks calks talk cork talked corked talking corking talks corks talker corker talkers corkers tall call taller caller tallow callow tamp camp tamped camped tamping camping tamps camps tamper camper tampers campers tan can tanned canned tanning canning tans cans tannery cannery tanneries canneries tanner canna tanners cannas tap cap taps caps tapping capping tapped capped tape cape tapes capes taper caper tapered capered tapering capering tapers capers tapped Capt ta car tar car tars cars tare care tares cares tarn Calne tarn khan tarns khans tarred card tarry carry tarried carried tarries carries tarrying carrying tarsal castle tarsals castles tart cart tarts carts tarted carted tarting carting tartan carton tartans cartons tartar carter tartars carters task cask tasks casks taste cased tat tack tats tacks tatting tacking tatty tacky tattier tackier tattiest tackiest tattle tackle tattled tackled tattles tackles tattling tackling taught caught taught court taught talk Taurus chorus taut caught taut court tautly courtly taut talk tauter talker tavern cavern taverns caverns tawny corny tawse cause tawses causes tea key teas keys tea quay teas quays tear care tearing caring tears cares teat teak tee key teeing keying tees keys tee quay tees quays teg keg tegs kegs ten ken tens kens tend kenned tent Kent Terry Kerry terse curse Thame came thirst Thirsk tick kick ticked kicked ticks kicks ticking kicking tight kite tights kites tight tike tights tikes tilde killed till kill tilling killing tills kills tiller killer tillers killers tilt kilt tilts kilts tined kind tip kip tipped kipped tipping kipping tips kips tit tic tits ticks titter ticker titters tickers tittle tickle to coo toad code toads codes toadied coded toast coast toasted coasted toasting coasting toasts coasts toaster coaster toasters coasters Toby Kobe toddle coddle toddled coddled toddles coddles toddling coddling toe Co toff cough toffs coughs toffee coffee toffees coffees tog cog togs cogs toil coil toiled coiled toiling coiling toils coils told coaled toll coal tolling coaling tolls coals tolled coaled tome comb tomes combs tone cone toned coned tones cones toning coning tonic conic Tony coney too coo tool cool tooled cooled tooling cooling tools cools toot coot toots coots top cop tops cops topping copping topped copped tope cope toped coped topes copes toping coping topped Copt topper copper toppers coppers toque coke toques cokes toques coax tor core tors cores tore core torn corn tort caught tort court tosh cosh toshes coshes tossed cost tot cot tots cots tote toque totes toques tote coat toted coated totes coats totter cottar totters cottars tough cuff toughs cuffs toughly Cuffley toupee coupé toupees coupés tow Co tower cower towered cowered towering cowering towers cowers towered coward toy coy track crack tracked cracked tracking cracking tracks cracks tracker cracker trackers crackers train crane trained craned training craning trains cranes trait crate traits crates traitor crater traitors craters tram cram trams crams tramp cramp tramped cramped tramping cramping tramps cramps trap crap trapped crapped trapping crapping traps craps trap-shooting crap-shooting trawl crawl trawled crawled trawling crawling trawls crawls trawler crawler trawlers crawlers trays craze tree Cree treed creed tress cress trews crews triced Christ tricked cricked trier crier triers criers triple cripple tripled crippled triples cripples tripling crippling tripped crypt triptych cryptic Troon croon troop croup troops croups troupe croup troupes croups trucks crux true crew trumpet crumpet trumpets crumpets trussed crust trust crust trusted crusted trusting crusting trusts crusts trusty crusty trustier crustier trustiest crustiest try cry tried cried trying crying tries cries tub cub tubs cubs tuba Cuba tube cube tubes cubes tubing cubing tubed cubed tuft cuffed tumulus cumulus tumuli cumuli tup cup tups cups turd curd turds curds Turks kirks turtle kirtle turtles kirtles turves curves tut tuck tuts tucks tutting tucking tutor cuter 'tween queen tweet tweak tweeting tweaking tweets tweaks twill quill twin quin twins quins twos coos Tyne kine vat vac vats vacs vets vex wait wake waiting waking waits wakes wart walk warts walks water walker waters walkers waterway walkaway waterways walkaways welt whelk welts whelks wert work wheat weak wheat week whist whisk Whit Wick whit wick wit wick wits wicks whitlow Wicklow Witham Wycombe wrist risk wrists risks writ wrick writs wricks write Reich writes Reichs
John Higgins, Shaftesbury, January 2010.