The /n/ sound is spelled with <n>, <nn>, <kn> or <gn> in gnu. The /r/ sound is spelled with <r>, <rr> or <wr> in wrap. Notice how the homographs furrier pairs with fernier and funnier and row with know and now.
This is a contrast between a nasal and a retroflex continuant, both in the alveolar region and both voiced. It can only occur initially or medially. It may be a problem for some learners in medial position, since the normal RP allophone of /r/ in this position is a single tap which is not very different from /n/.
Taboo word pairs include nigger/rigger.
In many cases a contrast only arises when a verb is inflected, as in adorning/adoring since the <r> is silent when final in the syllable. Fourteen of the pairs derive from various inflections and derivations of nation and ration, though the root words do not form a minimal pair. Other interesting pairs include:
The mean density value is 1.2%. The lists make 158 semantic distinctions, a loading of 55%.
adorning adoring almoner armourer almoners armourers alternation alteration alternations alterations banister barrister banisters barristers bannock barrack bannocks barracks Benny Bury cannon Carron cannot carat cannot carrot canny carry cannier carrier connect correct connected corrected connecting correcting connects corrects connection correction connections corrections connective corrective connectives correctives Connie corrie corning coring denied deride earning erring explanation exploration explanations explorations ferny furry fernier furrier ferniest furriest funnier furrier gnash rash gnashes rashes gnaw raw gnaw roar gnawed roared gnaws roars gnome Rome gnome roam gnomes roams gnu rue honey hurry honeyed hurried honeys hurries horny hoary hornier hoarier horniest hoariest humanist humorist humanists humorists impunity impurity interning interring jennies jerries Jenny Gerry keening keyring Kenny Kerry knack rack knacks racks knap rap knapped rapped knapping rapping knaps raps knap wrap knapped wrapped knapping wrapping knaps wraps knave rave knaves raves knead read kneading reading kneads reads knee re kneecap recap kneecaps recaps kneel reel kneeled reeled kneeling reeling kneels reels kneel real knife rife knight Rheydt knight right knighted righted knighting righting knights rights knightly rightly knives rives knob rob knobs robs knock roc knocked rocked knocking rocking knocks rocks knocker rocker knockers rockers knoll rôle knolls rôles knoll roll knolls rolls knot rot knotted rotted knotting rotting knots rots knout rout knouts routs know roe know row knowing rowing knows rows known roan knows rose Lorna Laura manage marriage manages marriages manageable marriageable manageability marriageability many merry mono morrow née ray nag rag nagged ragged nagging ragging nags rags nail rail nailed railed nailing railing nails rails nap rap napped rapped napping rapping naps raps nap wrap napped wrapped napping wrapping naps wraps nape rape napes rapes Nat rat national rational nationally rationally nationalism rationalism nationalist rationalist nationalists rationalists nationalistic rationalistic nationality rationality nationalities rationalities nationalization rationalization nationalizations rationalizations nationalize rationalize nationalized rationalized nationalizes rationalizes nationalizing rationalizing natter ratter natters ratters natty ratty nattier rattier nattiest rattiest near rear neared reared nearing rearing nears rears nearly really neck wreck necked wrecked necking wrecking necks wrecks necklace reckless necks Rex nectar rector Ned read Ned red Neddy ready need read needing reading needs reads needy reedy needier reedier neediest reediest ne'er rare neighed raid neighs raise neighs rays nest rest nested rested nesting resting nests rests nestle wrestle nestled wrestled nestles wrestles nestling wrestling net ret netted retted netting retting nets rets nib rib nibs ribs nice rice Nick Rick nigger rigger niggers riggers niggle wriggle niggled wriggled niggles wriggles niggling wriggling nigh rye nigh wry nigher wrier nighest wriest night right nighted righted nighting righting nights rights nightly rightly nil Rhyl nil rill nine Rhine nipple ripple nipples ripples nitre writer nitrous rightness no roe no row nod rod nods rods node road nodes roads none run nook rook nooks rooks noon rune noosed roost nope rope nor roar Norton Wroughton nose rose noses roses nosey rosy nosier rosier nosiest rosiest nostrum rostrum nostrums rostrums not rot notary rotary notaries rotaries notation rotation notations rotations note rote note wrote nought wrought nova rover novas rovers now row nub rub nubs rubs numb rum number rumba numbers rumbas nun run nuns runs nut rut nuts ruts nutted rutted nutting rutting onyx oryx ornate orate pawning poring pawning pouring Penny perry picnic picric scorning scoring sinner sirrah sinners sirrahs siphoning ciphering sonny Surrey sonority sorority sonorities sororities spurning spurring summoning summering sunny Surrey tawny Tory tenable terrible tenner terror tenners terrors unconnected uncorrected warning warring
John Higgins, Shaftesbury, December 2010.