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Sound spelling.

Some years ago now, I was interested to realise that there seemed to be many different spellings in English words of the sound `SH.' I began collecting these and soon branched into other sound spellings as well. The linguistic term for a sound unit is the phoneme. Now though I dabble in language curiosities I am no linguist, so I realise that I am entering `tiger country' by presenting this list! Its purpose is more to celebrate the amazing range of phonemic spellings in English--many being obvious borrowings from our parent languages--than to provide any definitive corpus (a la Rex Gooch or Susan Thorpe!).

Any such listing is of course dependent on local pronunciations--which vary widely across the spectrum of world English. It will quickly be evident that the list strongly reflects my antipodean origins. It is offered as a phurther phalanx in the vanguard of Australian logology led in these pages by such as Anil, Joshua Nash and Peter Delin. Accordingly reference was made in the first instance to the Macquarie Dictionary (second and third editions).

Many from both sides of the pale (Atlantic) will doubtless decry particular examples, especially those which are distinctively foreign or which suggest a somewhat `less than adequate' enunciation. Notable of course is the almost total absence in the North American phonulary/phonory of the short O sound, present elsewhere in such words as was, cot and knowledge [see list]. A selection of capitalised words is also included, and while many of these form terms in common usage, some are only used as geographical or personal names. Those readers who would prefer that these not be included in such a presentation may freely expunge them from their collective [un]conscious.

For simplicity, sounds have not been represented by phonetic symbols with the exception of the following:

* The indeterminate vowel called the schwa (from the Hebrew for `a sound like a soft vowel'). As can be seen from the list this is the sound with the most spellings (107). It is represented here by the symbol <'>.

* <*> represents an `intrusive' sound--for which there is no corresponding letter within the word; the antithesis of a silent letter.

a Add IsAAc drACHm mADEmoiselle FAHrenheit plAIt sALmon fAUXbourden CheyEnne revEIlle merIngue accIAccatura gUArantee

ay Ape grAAl sundAE champAGne dAHlia Aid campAIGn strAIGHt bordelAIS bordelAISE trAIT RALph hALFpenny gAOl gAUge sAY bAYEd clAYEY suEde yEA CrEAGH LEAHEy passpiED purEE thEGn EH vEIl rEIGn slEIGH wEIGHEd PompEII bris-solEIL metiER demESne berET valETEd entremETS ricochETTEd thEY obEYEd EYOt rendEZvous pince-nEZEd [feng] shuI lingeriE, mouILLE fOEHn epopOEIa communiqUE bouqUET croqUETEd grYsbok

ah spA bAA bAAEd [ooh &] AAH [oohed &] AAHEd AARdvARk bazAAREd usquebAE intAGlio OmAGH AH hurrAHEd sAHIb tAHRs cALm lARk ARE pARR bizARRE catARRH [objet] d'ART fracAS nougAT AUnt faiEnce hEARt orgEAT sERgeant soIree sangfroID foIE gras memoIRs repertoIRE bourgeoIS mirepoIX [je ne sais] quOI gUARd qUInte UrqUHARt vo*yeur

b BiB eBB loBE BHang elaBOrately laBYrinthitis gbeJna cuPBoard rasPBErry

ch Cello capriCCio caCCIatore CHild mleCHCHHa niCHE [cartes] blanCHES stanCHIon anCIent CSabai CZech conSCiOus riTual iTCH haTCHEd righTEOus posTHumous question kiTSCH deuTSCHEmark sancTUary NieTZSCHeism

d BDellium DiD quanDAry aDD BuDDHist oDE DHow meDIcine conDUit fillED couLD Tao

e Any AEstival said sAYs lEt hEAd kEElson hEIfer LEICEster lEOpard objET & objETS [d'art] rEYnard friend fOEtid bury gUEss *nth

e wary AAron AErate fairy pAIRs AIREd [charge] d'affAIRES cAREs prAYERs mAYOress mAYORs AYRshire [cattle] AYREs bolero bEArer yEAH pEARs bEAREd E'ER thEIRs beche-de-mER ERE partERRE EYra EYREs HEIrapparent HEIRs HEIREd wHERE

ee karAoke cAEsar shillelAGH tAOIseach bE sEA ocrEAE BEAUchamp bEE sEEing vEHicle seize LEIGH recEIPt pEOple mESne diocESEs gEWgaw kEY honEYEd kIwI minutzIAE chIEf mlHrab torII komIJne [kaas] coutIL canaILLE grenouILLES debris bruit [grand] prIX dahabIYeh fjord kopJE fOEtus onomatopOEIa chamOIs (pl.) chamOIS (sing.) chamOISEd qUAY qUAYEd dengUE parqUET croqUETEd begUIne grUYere citY gramarYE

er EARn [cordon] blEAU bERth wERE ERRs ERREd miliEU massEURs chauffEUREd messiEURS [pas de] dEUX wHIRled wHIRRs wHIRREd wHORls tIERce fIRs stIRREd mObius OEil-de-bOEUf fOEHn OERsted [cri de] cOEUR cOLOnel wORd scOURge fUrry gUERdon de rigUEUR liqUEUREd sURf bURRs fURREd mYrrhy mYRtle mYRRnong mYRRH

f Fat liFE oFF gaFFE comFORtable oFTen awFUlly touGH couGHEd caLF PFennig PHlox ouPHE staPHYlococcal saPPHire lieUtenant Vorspiel

g blaCKGUard Go reneGE eGG poGGE boGGHi GHost cateGOry GUide vaGUE

gz eXist

h He JoJoba WHo QuiXote thresh*old

i imAge prEtty brEAm brEEches lEHr counterfEIt EYrie exHIbit Ill carrIAge sIEve vICtuals wOmen bUsy bUIlt NorWIch mYth

ie nAive mAEstro tAIpan shanghAIEd HawAIIan canAILLE AISle AY AYE EIther hEIGHt gEYser EYE rHYme I dIAl indICt lIE sIGn hIGH sIGHEd nIHilism de stIJl IRon ISle guide bUY gUYEd flY dYE

j sandwiCH sandwiCHEd graDuate granDEur fiDGet eDGE solDIer aDJoin proceDUre Gem aGE suGGest leGIon reliGIOus Jay haJJ

k Cat practiCAlly oCCur siCCEd zuCCHini saCCHArine CHyle aCHE baCK liCKEd choCOlate aCQuit laCQUer saCQUE sGraffito louGH houGHEd maHzor Kin eKE ginKGo KHaKi jinriKIshaw puKKa treKKEd Quit QUay piQUE liQUOrice except XHosa

ks oX aXE eXCel eXSanguine eXSCind coXSWain EXXon

ksh luXury fleXIon seXUally

I offAL basicALLy labEL satELLite travELLEd seraGLio fossIL LuLL feLDspar axLE soLELy tuLLE beLLES symbOL victUALs consUL beautifULLy gunWALE methYL

m draCHM phleGM psaLM caLMEd MaMMal priMAry liMB boMBE gaME mesdaMES family prograMME feMMES [fatale] hyMN meMOrable madeMOiselle daMNEdest proMPt TMesis

n CNemis WeDNEsday suddENNess coGnac GNu coloGNE KNee MNemonic coMPtroller NoNE ordiNAry haNDsome viNGt-et-un piraNHa iNN cayeNNE dishoNOUrably avaNT-garde cottON PNeumatic

ng ink puNCture haNDkerchief loNG baNGEd mah-joNGG giNGHam haraNGUing toNGUE Pa*go Pa*go

o was yACHt blancmANge pharAOnic lAUrel EnsEmble taoisEAch burEAUcracy chEOngsam HOnest lingerie Ox [chou] mOEllier JOHn cOUgh knOWledge

oh curacAO pharAOH cAOUTchouc mAUve chAUD-froid [comme il] fAUT fAUX bEAU platEAUEd gatEAUX yEOman sEW sEWEd HAUteur HAUTboy milo wHOA gO OAk hallOAEd bOATswain tOE colOGne OH fOLk brOOch de trOP fOREcastle apropOS depOT depOTEd escargOTS sOUl dOUGH furlOUGHEd lOW OWE

aw All tALk extrAORdinary wARm wARREd ArkansAS tAUt AUGHt cAULk centAURs lAW withdrAWAl AWE drAWERs SEAn GEORge exHAUst exHORt HORS [d'oeuvre] story brOAd OARs rOAREd BOERs O'ER pOOrer dOORs mOOREd pORt cOREs cORPs [pl.] cORPS [sing.] tORR mORTgage pOUring OUGHt fOURth pOUREd tOWARds surer bURghul sUREly

oi lAWYer bourgEOis [type size] FrEUd tOEa OIl cOIGn travOIS jOY tOYEd bUOY bUOYEd


p suBPoena hiccouGH hiccouGHEd PoPE sePAratist halfPENny shePHerd corPOrate contemPORary temPORAry aPPle stePPE bankruPTcy

r dietARy Red arbitRARy foREarm [belles] lettRES RHyme aRRow pyRRHic waRWicks crocheting EdinbURgh drawing WRy

s forecASTle Cell flaCCid aCE whenCESoever PSalm See sarSAparilla SCent dehiSCE SCHism baSE uSED to ... danseuSES diSHabille aSKEd perSOnalized leSS neceSSAry mouSSE chauSSES liSTen iSTHmus SWord anSWErable ziziTH KiribaTI anTS boaTSWAin Xi waltz ecZEma

sh officiate breCCia oCEan herbaCEOus apprentiCESHip CHef caCHE [nouveaux] riCHES marCHIoness daCHSHund fuCHSIa social speCIAlly graCIOus PSHaw Sure faSCist SCHottiSCHE meerSCHAum conSCience conSCIOus nauSEOus SHy caSHEd cuSHIon faSHIOnable fiSH-SHop tension iSSue paSSIon profeSSIOnalism immenSUrable raTio raTIon cauTIOus anXIOus

t deBT indiCT viCTUAls viCTUALler apartheid velDT axED eiGHT PHTHisis receiPT peremPTOrily ToT miliTAry aTE THyme au graTIn hisTOry postPHTHisic puTT maTTE ziTTERn TWo pizza scher*zo

th CHTHonian eighth apoPHTHegm THin absinTHE caTHOlic


u hAllo hEllo thrEEpence coIffure wOn dOEs flOOd tOUch Us UGH hUH tWOpence

oo wOlf gOOd wORsted WORCEstershire cOUrier wOULd put cWm

uu slEUth drEW brEWEd rHEUm silHOUette lIEU SIOUx (pl.) SIOUX (sing.) jIUjitsu tO shOE manOEUvre tOO wOOEd pOOH OOHEd [and aahed] sOUp mOUE thrOUGH brOUGHAm cOUP trou-de-lOUPS rendezvOUS rendezvOUSEd ragOUT rOUX tUtU blUE glUHwein suit flUOride debUT debUTEd mUUmUU crWth tWO

v oF haLVE StePHen qUass Vat eVE goVERnor privileged faVOUrite [hors] d'oeVRE naVVy edelweiss

w *one chiHUaHUa mariJUana choir OUabain sUite We hoWE WHat poWWow y onIon bouILLon halleluJah carilLon tortiLLa cogNac manana tenUre Yes intagl*i

yuu bEAUty fEUd EUGH fEW EWE adIEU vIEW vIEWEd ampOUle emU dUAl cUE qUEUE impUGn HUGH FUHrer pursUIt pUISne vacUUm YEW YOU YUle

z CZar DZus aS diSCern uSE uSED to ... business raSPberry sciSSorS TSar Xerox Zest gaZE buZZ whiZZEd

zh Genre GBejna beiGE bijou meaSure viSIon pleaSUrably equaTIon aZure braZIer

' About CanAAn currACH AEsthetic shillelAGH loofAH verandAHEd mountain blANCmange liARs reAREd restAUrant exCEllent itEm pagEAnt burEAUcrat bEEn sakiEH forEHEAd forfEIt forEIGn halfpENNYWORth pigEOn embracEORs gorgEOUs briERs gruyERE vetERinary oeuvrES crochET crochETEd pastEUrize grandEUR chauffEUREd forEWARd cocknEYfy burGH roxburGHE exHAlation philHARmonic veHEment shepHERd veHIcle silHOuette ChisHOLm yogHOURt kieselguHR dachsHUnd yogHURt livId parlIAment mischIEf papIER-mache soldIEREd chIHuahua marIJuana wILl fashIOn spaciOUs elixIRs AyrshIRE [cattle] BelgIUm oeiL-, oeiLS-de-boeuf purpose O'clock cupbOARd OEdema bolOGnaise porpOIse NorfOLk [pine] COLQUhoun mONsieur actORs mirrOREd joyOUs thorOUGH wOULd labOURs honOUREd lacQUERs lacQUEREd hourly acREs [charges] d'affaiRES iROn coxSWAIn circUs sanctUAry actUALly blackgUARd gUErilla conqUERs cheqUEREd biscUIt liqUOrice langUORs liqUOREd sURprise pictUREd known gunWAle boatsWAin ansWERs ansWEREd syzYgy eYAs satYRs martYREd och*ry


* burEAU (= oh) burEAUcrat ('), and burEAUcracy (o)

* ee and u sounds are made by all of the vowels (and ee by y too):

imAge prEtty bIt wOmen bUsy hYmn

hAllo hEllo coIffure tOn cUp

* The most letters `contained' in a sound is seven: ENNYWOR =', in halfpENNYWORth brOUGHAm, mleCHCHHa, plOUGHEd, posTPHTHisic, furlOUGHEd and wEIGHEd (with 71% of its letters in one sound) have five each

* The sound with the most spellings is also the commonest sound in English. The schwa comprises 10.8% of all conversation--way ahead of the next most common sounds: ee (8.3%), n (7.6%), t (6.4%) and d (5%)

A cAt: a Ate: ay
 Any: e karAoke: ee
 wAs: o bAll: aw
 deAf: (silent)

E CheyEnne: a suEde: ay
 lEt: e Erring: er
 Eye: ie Encore: o
 thrEw: uu fEw: yuu

I merIngue: a soIree: ah
 skI: ee bIt: i
 coIffure: u onIon: y

O mObius: er wOmen: i
 pOrous: aw tOn: u
 chOir: w One: wu

U bUry: e fUrry: er
 bUy: ie sUrer: aw
 rUle: uu qUass: v
 Use: yuu circUs: '

Y grYsbok: mYrrhy: er
 skY: ie Yes: y

AA grAAl: ay bAA: ah

AE sundAE: ay usquebAE: ah
 cAEsar: ee mAEstro:

AI plAIt: a AId: ay
 tAIpan: ie fountAIn: '

AO gAOl: ay curacAO: oh
 extrAOrdinary: aw

AU gAUge: ay lAUgh: ah
 gAUss: ow mAUve: oh

AY sAY: ay sAYs: e

EA yEA: ay bEArer: e
 tEAm: ee brEAm: i
 pagEAnt: '

EE purEE: ay kEElson: e
 thrEEpence: u

EI revEIlle: a rEIgn: ay
 sEIze: ee counterfEIt: i

EO lEOpard: e pEOple: ee
 pigEOn: '

EU miliEU: er slEUth: uu
 pastEUrize: '

EY thEY: ay rEYnard: e
 Eyrie: i gEYser: ie

IA accIAccatura: a marrIAge: '

IE lingerIE: ay foIE [gras]: ah
 sIEve: i lIE: ie

II torII: ee

IO flexIOn: '

IU jIUjitsu: uu BelgiUm: '

IY dahabIYeh: ee

OA OAk: oh brOAd: aw

OE fOEtid: e phOEnix: ee
 shOE: uu mOEllier: o
 OEdema: '

OI [je ne sais] quOIs: ah chamOIs [p/]: ee
 porpOIse: '

OO flOOd: u gOOd: oo
 pOOrer: aw

OU yOUng: u cOUgh: o
 ampOUle: yuu sOUl: oh
 OUabain: w joyOUs: '

OY jOY: oi

UA gUArantee: a gUArd: a
 victUAl: '

UE malagUEna: ay gUEss: e
 cUE: yuu sUEde: way

UI qUInte: a begUIne: ee
 sUIt: uu pursUIt: yuu

UO flUOride: uu liqUOrice: ' or silent

UU mUUmUU: uu vacUUm: yuu

UY grUYere: ee bUY: ie

YE gramarYE: ee dYE: ie

YU YUle: yuu

A dAre: e Ask: ah
 imAge: i nAive: ie
 hAllo: u Above: '

E bolEro: e faiEnce: ah
 wE: ee prEtty: i
 sEw: oh hEllo: u
 itEm: ' siEve: (silent)

I [feng] shuI: ay sIr: er
 Ice: ie lIngerie: o
 pencIl: ' plaIt: (silent)

O hOt: o Open: oh
 wOlf: oo dO: uu
 purpOse: ' leOpard: (silent)

U lieUtenant: f bUsy: i
 cUp: u pUt: oo
 qUick: w tenUre y
 bUild: (silent)

Y citY: ee hymn: i
 zephyr: ' prayer: (silent)

AA AAron: e CanAAn: '

AE AErate: e AEstival: e
 AEsthetic: '

AI fAIry: e said: e

AO pharAOnic: o ciAO: ow

AU lAUrel: o tAUt: aw
 restAUrant: '

AY quAY: ee AY: ie

EA hEArt: ah hEAd: e
 taoisEAch: o SEAn: aw

EE bEE: ee brEEches: i

EI thEIr: e hEIfer: e
 EIther: ie forfEIt: '

EO chEOngsam: o yEOman: oh

EU fEUd: yuu FrEUd: oi

EY EYra: e kEY: ee
 cocknEYfy: '

IA dIAl: ie parlIAment: '

IE frIEnd: e belIEve: ee
 mischIEfi: '






OE OEil-de-boeuf: er dOEs: u
 tOE: oh tOEa: oi

OI fOIl: oi chOIr: wie

OO fOOd: uu brOOch: oh

OU cOUrier: oo crOUp: uu
 pOUring: aw lOUd: ow


UA dUAl: yuu sUAve: wa

UE dengUE: ee blUE: uu
 gUErilla: ' meringUE: (silent)

UI bUIld: i gUIde: ie
 sUIte: wee biscUIt: '






Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia
COPYRIGHT 2003 Jeremiah Farrell
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2003 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Kidd, Stuart
Publication:Word Ways
Date:May 1, 2003
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