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Sacred manuscripts boast secret ciphers.

In Orthograffiti (WW78217), Richard Lederer showed that a single sound can be demonstrated by many different letters. The sounds which concern us here are the long vowels, specifically the sounds of the 5 major vowels, A,E,I,O and U as they are pronounced in the reading of the alphabet. The sound symbols are those of the Phonetics List of the Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition. However, I include a further parameter. The long vowel sound must either be preceded, or succeeded, by the short 's' sound. The latter was chosen because it comes in a range of letter combinations. It was not chosen so that plurals could be used. In fact, most s-ending plurals end with the short 'z' sound!

Many of the variant forms in the OED may also qualify as examples of the genres below but have not been included because they are not phoneticized individually. Letters which immediately follow the required sound, and which are obviously silent letters, are not included as part of that sound. Thus the -igh of 'sigh' is deemed not to be a variation of the long I sound.
long 'A' sound followed by short 's' sound.... (phonetic eIs)

AC ace, awl, face, glacier
AIS waist, dais
AS asyllabic, basic, casein, waste
AYC Jaycee (US coll.--a member of the junior chamber
EC precis\of commerce)
EIS obeisance, braaivleis (a barbecue), millreis (coin)
EYS greystone, geyser
UES roquesite (a sulphide of copper and indium CuIn[S.sub.2])

AIC plaice
AISS caisson, bouillabaisse, traiss (trace)
ASS bass
AYS playsome, Malaysian
EES keeshond (a variety of the spitz dog)
ES mesa, Keres (a Pueblo Indian people)
EYSS Seyssel (the name of 2 villages on the upper Rhone)

short 's' sound followed by long 'A' sound.... (seI)

CE acequia (a canal for irrigation), fiance
SA sacred, dispensation
SAI saint, sailor
SE Seder (Passover service), Luiseno (a Shoshone Indian people)
 shimose (a high explosive), seance
SI sind (to rinse), Sinaic
SSAY essay(ette)
SSEH medresseh (a Muslim college)
SZAI szaibelyite (a hydrous borate of magnesium)

CEE fiancee
SAE saeter (a meadow associated with a dwelling)
SAY saying, calisaya (a valuable Peruvian bark), soothsay
SEI seigniorial, seine (a fishing net), abseil, nisei \sayyid
SEY Seychelles, causey (a dam)
SSA decussate, glissade, cessation
SSE masse (a billiards term), chausse (shod)
SSEI nissei (an American born of Japanese parents)
ZE piazze (var. 'piazza', an Italian public square)

long 'E' sound followed by short 's' sound.... (i:s)

AEC aecidial, faeces
EAC peace
EC ecize (re. plants--to colonize), perithecium,
EES eesome (attractive to the eye), teesoo (Dhak flowers)
ES Esau, thesis, obese
IC ici, police
IES gieseckite (variety pinite), Schoenflies (mathematician)
IS isblink, artiste, piste, ambergris, kris
ISS pelisse (a fur garment), camiss (a Muslim shirt)
OES oestrin

AES aestivation, quaestor
EAS Easter, yeast, grease, increase
EEC fleece, Greece
EIS eis-blink, leister (a fishing spear)
EYS keystone
IEC piece
IIS iisblink (a luminous appearance on the horizon)
 caused by the reflection of light from ice)
OEC oecist (the founder of an ancient Greek colony), dioecy
IX Dix (the lowest trump in Bezique and other card games)

short 's' sound followed by long 'E' sound.... (si:)

C C--the letter C
CE cedar, ceanothus, ibices, panacea, circe
CEE ceefax, dicees, proceed, seducee
CEY ceylonite (a ferruginous variety of spinel from Ceylon)
CIE cieling, abcie
CY cypres (in Law, means 'as near as practicable')
SAO Saorstat eirann (Irish Free State)
SEA season, heartsease, Chelsea
SEI seiff (old type of eye-wash), casein, disseisee
SI sikh, arsine, Farsi
SSAE thalassemia, vibrissae
SSEE lesseeship, assessee
SSI assize (parallel beds of rock agreeing in their
 organic remains)
SY Sylow (P.L Sylow = a Norwegian mathematician)
ZEE Yahtzee (the 'Yacht' Game)

CAE caenozoic, glycaemia, muscae (eye floaters)
CEA cease, conceal
CEI ceiling, perceive, conceit, caducei
CI cinematheque, glycine
COE coelenterate, acoelomate
SAE mucosae
SE sepia, ellipses, paradisean, Barotse
SEE seethe, aniseed, foresee
SEY Seymouria (a fossil tetrapod), semseyite
SIE Siegfried, besiege
SSE Tennessean, Ulysses, esse
SSEI Casseiver (cassette recorder/radio)
SSIE assiege, cassie (a shrub with yellow flowers)
SZE Sze Yap (an area in Guangdong Province in China)

long 'I' sound followed by short 's' sound.... (aIs)

AES maestro
AISS quaiss kitir (means 'Very good!')
EISS Meissen, gneiss
EYS geyser
US priis (old 'price')
IS isotopic, incisor, nisi, precise
UYSS huyssenite (a borate of manganese and iron)
YES dyester (a cloth dyer)
YSS Syssssel (a sheriffdom in Iceland)

AIS (naya) paisa, sais
EIS Eis, Eisteddfod, feisty, reis
EYES eyesore
IC ice, nice, twice
IJS rijsttafel (a South-East Asian rice dish)
ISS Chrissake
YC actinomycetes, glycine
YS shyster, helichrysum (a creeping plant), tryst

short 's' sound followed by long 'I' sound.... (saI)

CEI ceiba (silk-cotton tree of West Indies), priceite
 \(a mineral)
SAAI saaidam (land for flood water enclosed by earthen walls)
SAI Saigon, gosain (a Hindu religious mendicant), bonsai
SCI sciatica, disciple, ethnoscience
SEI seismic
SIE prophesied
SSI missile, assize
SY anovial, forsythia, prophesy
ZEI hintzeite (a borate of potassium and magnesium)

CI cipher, precise, fuci
CY cycle, oocyte
SAE saeva indignatio (savage indignation)
SAY sayonara, sayyid
SCY scythe, hyoscyamia (a vegetable alkali)
SI siphon, Siamese, inside, quasi
SSEI gossein (see gosain--SAI)
SSY assythment (compensation)
SZI kaluszite (hydrous sulphate of calcium and potassium)
ZI quartzite (a compact, granular, mainly quartz, rock)

long 'O' sound followed by short 's' sound....

AUSS hausse (type of breech site for a cannon), Saussurean
OAS oast, boast, Milquetoast (an AEIOU word)
OES doeskin, woesome
OPS ethnosychology
OSS osseter (sp. of sturgeon), engrossing, disgross
OWC stowce (a windlass for drawing up ore), Snowcem
OWS bowsprit, throwster (one who twists silk into thread)

EAUC Peaucellier cell (named after its inventor Lieut. Peucellier)
OC ocellus, grocery, loci
OHS oh-so, mohsite (oxide of iron and titanium)
OS osmosis, ulvOspinel(a mineral), thos(canine beasts)
OUS gousblom(aplant of the Compositae), klipkous(abalone)
OWES Lowestoft (in Suffolk, UK)
OZ corozo (a South American tree allied to the palms)

short 's' sound followed by long 'O' sound....

CAO curacao
SAU Sauterne
SEW sewn
SOA soapy
SOW sower
SSO rissole, associate, expresso
SSOW curassow (a turkey-like bird)

CEO once-over
SCEAU Sceaux (a town near Paris)
SO Soviet, sole, disobey, torso
SOU soul
SSEAU Rousseau, trousseau
SSOH Mendelssohn
ZO Zoque (a group of Central-American Indian languages),
 quartzose, Tzotzil (a member of an Indian people in
 parts of S. Mexico), scherzo

long 'U' sound followed by short 's' sound.... (ju:s)

EUC eucyclic (a Botanical term), deuce
EWS Newspeak
UIS nuisance
YUS Yusufzai (a Pathan tribal group inhabiting the N-W Frontier
 Province of Pakistan \passage)

EUS Euston, eustacy (a uniform change of sea level worldwide),
UC nucellar, fuci, deduce \ Zeus, meuse
us use, manuscript, meatus (a natural channel or tubular

short 's' sound followed by long 'U' sound.... (sju:)

CEU pharmaceutic
SEU proseucha (a place of prayer in ancient times)
SSU assume, pari passu (in Law, means 'equally')

C(I)EU Clarenc(i)eux (an English dukedom)
SEW sewer (formerly, an attendant at a meal)
SU suberic (pertaining to cork), capsule

Whole Word makes the sound

The long vowel--short 's' (or vv) sound may be the whole word. Thus the short 's'--long E sound is represented by sea and sse, the latter also meaning 'sea'. The short 's'--long U sound is, similarly, represented by sew and sue, both meaning 'of a cow: dry of milk'. In both these cases the words are synonymous.

Homophonic examples, in which the meaning of the words is different, can also be found:

Long A say--sey (a fish)

Long E C (the third letter of the Roman alphabet)--see

Long O sew--so--soh--sow--seau (a bucket-like wine cooler)


In these non-whole word homophonic examples, the difference in spelling of the words is confined to the long vowel-short 's' (or vv) sound sequence, the other letters remaining the same.
Long A place--plaice sane--seine
Long E grease--Greece--grece (see * below), seam--seem, seamen--semen
peace--piece Ceiling--sealing--seeling
 (of a ship, making a
 sudden lurch to one side)
 seeling (of a ship,
 making a sudden lurch to
 one side)
 cedi (a monetary unit of
 Ghana)--sidi (an African,
 Negro etc.)
 ceder (one who cedes)--

Long I Reisner (German artist in wood)-- cite--site, sine (a gulf
Reissner (German anatomist) or bay)--syne (at the next
Long O host--hoast (a cough) \moment)

* there are 14 variants of 'grece' (a stairway) in the OED, all of which would seem to have the same pronunciation but, without the phonetic entries, there is always an element of uncertainty.


It is rare for the long vowel-short 's' sound to be found in homophones which are also synonyms:

Long I reis = rais (the captain of a boat or vessel)

Two in One

In each of these words, the same long vowel- short's (or w)' sound occurs twice. The 2 groups of letters may be anywhere in the word:

(a) The letters concerned are the same
Long I sinusitis cimicine
Long O mesosome

(b) The letters concerned are different
Long E aesthesia (capacity for feeling and sensation)
Long I metempsychosize, cyanicide, cytosine (in DNA)
Long O adipocellulose, biocoenosis, monopsychosis

Two in One Reversed

In these words, the same long vowel sound appears as both the long vowel--short 's' sound and its reverse, the short 's'--long vowel sound.

(a) The letters concerned are the same
Long E Sinarquista
Long I isoclasite
Long O isodose

(b) The letters concerned are different
Long E coenaesthesis (the vital sense)
Long I cytolysin, polyisocyanate
Long O dissocioscope

Shared letters

(a) The long vowel sound is preceded and succeeded by a short 's' sound
Long A Sevssel (the name of 2 villages on the upper Rhone), sayst
Long E deceased, caecitis
Long I incisor, syce (an Indian horse groom)
Long O saussurite (variety of the mineral zoisite), society
Long U disuse

(b) The short 's' sound is preceded and succeeded by the same long vowel sound
Long A staysail
Long E reseat, thecae, faeces, meseems, resieze
Long I dicyanide
Long O virtuoso

Special Words

Words may satisfy more than one of the above categories. Here are 2 examples:

PLEISTOSEIST (pleistoseists are lines enclosing earthquake areas) ... the 'ei' in each case is pronounced as a Long I Two in One--letters the same (pleistoseist). Two in One reversed--letters the same (pleistoseist), Shared letters--Long I sound preceded and succeeded by a short 's' sound (pleistoseist). DECISIS (stare decisis--in Law; to be bound by precedents) ... the 2 letters 'i' are each pronounced as a Long E Two in One--letters the same (decisis) Two in One--letters different (decisis) Two in One Reversed--letters different (decisis) Shared letters--Long E sound preceded and succeeded by a short 's' sound (decissis and decisis)--short 's' sound preceded and succeeded by Long E sound (decisis)


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Author:Thorpe, Susan
Publication:Word Ways
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2007
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