The /v/ sound is spelled with <v>, while the /w/ sound is spelled <w> or <wh>. The contrast only occurs initially or medially.
The contrast is between a labio-dental fricative and a bilabial semivowel, both voiced. It can be a problem for many learners, including Dutch, Germans, Scandinavians, Spaniards, Russians and Chinese.
The pair is used in the book title Verse and Worse. The pair vaulter/Walter occurs in a joke once told by Richard Whiteley on Countdown, set in an international athletics meeting:
"Are you a pole-vaulter?"Other interesting pairs include:
"No, I am German, but how did you know my name?"
The mean density value is 1.2%. The list makes 37 semantic distinctions, a loading of 60%.
levered leeward V we V wee V's wees V's wheeze vac whack vacs whacks vacs wax vale wail vales wails vale whale vales whales vales Wales vary wary vaulter Walter veal wheel veer Wear veer weir veers weirs veered weird veil wail veils wails veiled wailed veiling wailing veil whale veils whales veiling whaling vein wane veins wanes veined waned vend wend vended wended vending wending vends wends vent went verse worse versed worst very wherry vest west vet wet vets wets vetted wetted vetting wetting Vic wick victual whittle victualled whittled victuals whittles vie Y vies Y's vies wise vied wide vile while vim whim Vince wince vine whine vines whines vine wine vines wines viper wiper vipers wipers visor wiser volley Wally vow wow vows wows wavered wayward
John Higgins, Shaftesbury, November 2010.