The /u/ vowel is usually spelled <oo>, <ew>, <u> and <o> in two. The /əʊ/ diphthong has many spellings <oCe>, <oa>, <ow> and <au> in mauve, as well as the letter name O. Because of the various pronunciations associated with the spellings <o> and <ow> these lists are especially rich in homographs. Notice the homograph do which appears on both sides. The dictionary lists two spellings for soubriquet/sobriquet, each associated with a different pronunciation. I have left this in, though since the meaning does not change it does not really count as a minimal pair. A similar case is halloo/hallo.
This is a contrast between a long vowel and a diphthong, fairly close in the mouth. There is some scope for confusion, a known problem for Danes but not otherwise associated with any particular group of learners. Many speakers, including some native speakers, will use a half open monophthong [o] in place of the diphthong, but that will not in itself cause discrimination problems.
In several cases this contrast signals a change of tense: blow/blew, crow/crew, flow/flew, grow/grew, throw/threw, and in one case in the opposite direction, choose/chose. This also happens with know/knew, but because of palatalisation this is not a minimal pair except for some Americans.
There is one taboo word pair, coon/cone.
Interesting pairs include:
The density figure is 8%. The set makes 141 semantic contrasts giving a loading of 52.6%.
bestrewed bestrode blew blow blue blow blued blowed blues blows bluing blowing bluer blower boo beau boos beaux boo bow booing bowing boos bows booed bowing booed bode boogie bogey boogies bogeys boon bone boons bones boost boast boosted boasted boosting boasting boosts boasts booster boaster boosters boasters boot boat booted boated booting boating boots boats booze beaux booze bows buhl bole chews chose choose chose clews close clues close coo Co cooed code cool coal cooled coaled cooling coaling cools coals cooled cold cooler cola coolers colas coon cone coons cones coop cope cooped coped cooping coping coops copes coot coat coots coats crew crow crewed crowed crewing crowing crews crows croon crone croons crones crooner kroner crude crowed cruise crows do do do doe do's does doom dome doomed domed dooms domes drool droll flew floe flew flow flue floe flues floes flue flow flues flows flute float fluted floated flutes floats fluting floating fool foal fooled foaled fooling foaling fools foals ghoul goal ghouls goals glue glow glued glowed glues glows gluing glowing gnu know gnus knows goo go Goole goal grew grow groove grove grooves groves group grope grouped groped grouping groping groups gropes halloo hallo Hoo ho Hoo hoe hoop hope hooped hoped hooping hoping hoops hopes Jew Joe June Joan Lewis Lois lieu lo lieu low loo lo loo low loos lows loofah loafer loofahs loafers loom loam loon loan loons loans loop lope looped loped looping loping loops lopes moo mo moo mow mooing mowing moos mows mooed mowed mood mode moods modes mood mowed moon moan mooned moaned mooning moaning moons moans moot moat mooted moated moots moats move mauve moves mauves noon known ooze O's oozier osier outgrew outgrow overflew overflow overthrew overthrow pool pole pooled poled pooling poling pools poles pool poll pooled polled pooling polling pools polls poop Pope poops Popes Pru pro prune prone retooled retold rheum roam rheum Rome rood road roods roads room Rome room roam roomed roamed rooming roaming rooms roams roost roast roosted roasted roosting roasting roosts roasts rooster roaster roosters roasters root rote rude rode rude rowed rue roe rue row rues rows ruing rowing rued rowed rued rode rule rôle rules rôles rule roll ruled rolled ruling rolling rules rolls ruler roller rulers rollers rune roan runes roans schooled scold scoop scope shoe show shoeing showing shoes shows shooed showed shoo show shooing showing shoos shows Sioux sew Sioux so Sioux sow sleuth sloth sleuths sloths slew sloe slews sloes slew slow slewed slowed slewing slowing slews slows sloop slope sloops slopes snood snowed snooze snows soon sown sou sew sous sews sou so sou sow sous sows soubriquet sobriquet soubriquets sobriquets soup soap souped soaped souping soaping soups soaps spook spoke spooks spokes stool stole stools stoles strewed strode threw throe threw throw through throe through throw tomb tome tombs tomes too toe too tow tool toll tooled tolledd tooling tolling tools tolls tooled told toot tote tooted toted tooting toting toots totes tootle total tootled totalled tootles totals tootling totalling toucan token toucans tokens troop trope troops tropes troupe trope troupes tropes truth troth two toe twos toes two tow twos tows who ho who hoe whom home whose hoes whose hose woo whoa woo woe woos woes wooed woad
John Higgins, Shaftesbury, December 2009