Consonants /s/ versus /n/, 496 pairs     [saidned.html]

The /s/ sound is spelled with <s>, <ss>, <ce>, <ps> in pseud or <sw> in sword. The /n/ sound is spelled with <n>, <nnm> or <gn> in gnaw. Notice how the homographs bass makes pairs with bane and ban, sow with know and now, and the pair contest/content appears in the list twice since both words are homographs. Sometimes the contrast arises when an adjective is derived from a noun ending in -[i]on such religious/religion, or when two different adjective can be derived from one root, as in victorious/Victorian.

This is a contrast between a voiceless sibilant fricative and a voiced nasal continuant, fairly close together in the mouth. It causes no problems.

The only taboo word pair is piss/pin.

The computer has brought up several pairs in which /s/ contrasts with a syllabic /n/ such as browbeats/browbeaten and mistakes/mistaken. These do not feel like minimal pairs since the syllable count is different, but I have left them in the list. Other interesting pairs include:

castle carnal
compasses companies
coxes cockneys
juicier junior
sabre neighbour
savory knavery
seasick scenic
sector nectar
sibling nibbling
vesture venture

The mean density value is 1.8%. The list makes 303 semantic distinctions, a loading of 61%.

alias alien
amphibious amphibian 
ascent anent 
ass Ann 
assessed ascent 
baas barn
base bane 
bass bane
bass ban 
bast bant 
Bess Ben 
Bessie Benny 
best bent 
  bests bents 
bluster blunter 
boss Bonn 
bossy bonny 
  bossier bonnier 
  bossiest bonniest 
bourse bourn 
brace brain
  bracing braining
  braced brained
breast Brent
Brest Brent 
browbeats browbeaten 
bursar burner 
  bursars burners 
burst burnt 
bus bun 
buses bunnies 
busting bunting   
butts button
C knee
  C's knees
case cane
  casing caning 
  cased caned
cassock Cannock 
cast can't 
castle carnal 
cease Nice 
cease niece
cease scene
Cecil nestle
cede knead
  ceded kneaded
  cedes kneads
  ceding kneading
ceiling kneeling
cell knell
  cells knells
cell Nell 
chase chain 
  chasing chaining 
  chased chained
cite knight
  cited knighted
  cites knights
  citing knighting		 
cite night
  cites nights  
citrous citron 
close clone 
coarse corn
coarser corner
compasses companies 
complacent complainant
concise consign
contagious contagion 
contest content 
  contests contents 
contest content 
  contested contented 
  contesting contenting 
  contests contents 
corset cornet 
  corsets cornets 
cos con 
cost cont 
course corn
  coursing corning 
  coursed corned
courser corner
  coursers corners 
coxes cockneys 
cymbal nimble
dace Dane 
dace deign
decide denied
deuce dune
device divine
dice dine
  dicing dining
  diced dined
dosed don't 
doss don 
  dossing donning 
  dossed donned
douse down 
  dousing downing
  doused downed
Erse earn
Erse urn
Esther enter
face fain
face feign
  facing feigning
  faced feigned
faced faint
force faun 
force fawn
  forcing fawning 
  forced fawned
fuss fun 
fussy funny 
  fussier funnier 
  fussiest funniest 
  fussily funnily 
fussiness funniness 
goose goon 
grace grain
grassed grant 
grease green
greaser greener
gross groan 
  grossing groaning 
  grossed groaned
guessed Ghent 
guest Ghent
hearse Herne 
hissed hint 
hoarse horn
Honduras Honduran 
horse horn
horsy horny 
humus human 
hussy honey 
  hussies honeys 
invest invent 
  invested invented 
  investing inventing 
  invests invents 
investor inventor 
  investors inventors 
Jess gen
Jessie Jenny 
jest gent 
  jests gents 
joist joint 
  joists joints 
joss John 
Joyce join
juice June
juicier junior
justice Justin 
kiss kin 
lace lain
lattice Latin 
lease lean 
  leasing leaning 
less Len 
lest lent 
lice line
licit linnet
list lint 
lists Linz 
loose loon 
looser lunar
looses loonies 
Lucy loony
mace Maine 
mace main
mass man 
  massing manning 
  massed manned
Mauritius Mauritian 
mess men 
messed meant 
messy many 
mice mine
missed mint 
mistakes mistaken 
mist mint
  misted minted 
  misting minting 
  mists mints 
moose moon 
Morse morn	 
Morse mourn
moused mount
musses monies 
nice nine
noose noon 
nous noun 
oblivious oblivion 
obsessed absent 
opus open 
overeats overeaten 
oversight overnight 
pace pain
  pacing paining	
  paced pained
paced paint
paste paint
  pasted painted 
  pastes paints 
  pasting painting 
  pastings paintings 
pasties panties 
piss pin 
  pissing pinning 
  pissed pinned
pisses pinnies 
place plain
placed plaint
place plane
  placing planing
  placed planed
plaster planter 
  plasters planters 
pseud nude 
  pseuds nudes 
pus pun 
quiets quieten 
race rain
  racing raining
  raced rained
race rein
  racing reining
  raced reined
race reign
  racing reigning
  raced reigned
racy rainy
  racier rainier
  raciest rainiest
rebellious rebellion 
rejoice rejoin
  rejoicing rejoining
  rejoiced rejoined
religious religion 
rest rent 
  rested rented 
  resting renting 
  rests rents 
rice Rhine 
rust runt 
  rusts runts 
rustle runnel 
  rustles runnels 
S N 
sabre neighbour 
  sabres neighbours 
sac knack 
sack knack
  sacks knacks 
sag nag 
  sagged nagged 
  sagging nagging 
  sags nags 
said Ned 
sail nail
  sailed nailed 
  sailing nailing 
  sails nails 
sale nail
  sales nails
same name 
sap knap 
  sapped knapped 
  sapping knapping 
  saps knaps 
sap nap 
  sapped napped 
  sapping napping 
  saps naps 
sappy nappy 
sash gnash 
  sashes gnashes 
sat gnat
sat Nat 
satyr natter 
  satyrs natters 
sauce Norse 
save knave 
  saves knaves 
savory knavery 
  savouries knaveries 
savvy navvy 
saw gnaw 
  sawed gnawed 
  sawing gnawing 
  saws gnaws 
saw nor
sawn sauce 
say nay
say née 
say neigh
  saying neighing 
sea knee
  seas knees
seal kneel
  sealed kneeled 
  seals kneels 
  sealing kneeling
sear near 
  seared neared 
  searing nearing 
  sears nears 
searcher nurture 
  searchers nurtures 
seasick scenic 
sec neck 
secs necks 
sect necked 
sector nectar 
see knee
  sees knees
seed knead
  seeded kneaded
  seeds kneads
  seeding kneading
seedy needy 
  seedier needier 
  seediest neediest 
seedless needless 
seedling needling 
seize knees
sell knell
  sells knells
sell Nell
Seoul knoll
serve nerve 
  served nerved 
  serves nerves 
  serving nerving 
set net
  sets nets 
  setting netting 
settle nettle 
  settled nettled 
  settles nettles 
  settling nettling 
sever never 
sew know 
  sews knows
  sewing knowing 
  sewn known 
sew no
sewed node 
sewer newer 
sex necks
sexed next 
sibling nibbling 
sibyl nibble 
  sibyls nibbles 
sick nick
  sicked nicked 
  sicks nicks 
sickle nickel 
  sickles nickels 
sigh nigh 
sight knight
  sighted knighted
  sights knights
  sighting knighting	  
sight night
  sights nights  
sign nine 
  signs nines 
Sioux gnu
sire nigher 
sit knit
  sits knits
  sitting knitting
site knight
  sited knighted
  sites knights
  siting knighting	   
site night
  sites nights  
sitter knitter
  sitters knitters 
six nicks
so know 
so no
soap nope 
soar gnaw 
  soared gnawed 
  soars gnaws
soar nor 
sob knob 
  sobs knobs 
Soc knock
soccer knocker 
sock knock
sock knock 
  socked knocked 
  socking knocking 
  socks knocks 
sod nod 
  sodded nodded 
  sodding nodding 
  sods nods 
sole knoll 
  soles knolls 
some numb 
son none 
son nun
  sons nuns 
sore gnaw 
sore nor
  sores gnaws
sort nought 
  sorts noughts 
sot knot 
  sots knots 
sou gnu 
  sous gnus 
sought nought
soul knoll
  souls knolls
souse nous 
sow know 
  sows knows
  sowing knowing 
  sown known 
sow no
sow now 
space Spain 
spice spine
spicy spiny
  spicier spinier
  spiciest spiniest
sub nub 
  subs nubs 
suckle knuckle 
  suckled knuckled 
  suckles knuckles 
  suckling knuckling 
sue knew 
sue new
sues news 
sum numb
  summed numbed 
  summing numbing 
  sums numbs 
sun none 
sun nun
  suns nuns 
sunburst sunburnt 
suss son 
suss sun
  sussing sunning 
  sussed sunned
susses sonnies 
sword gnawed
taste taint 
  tasted tainted 
  tastes taints 
  tasting tainting 
tasteless taintless 
terse tern 
terse turn
terser turner
Tess ten
test tent
  tests tents 
Texas Texan 
trace train
  tracing training
  traced trained
tracer trainer
  tracers trainers
truce Troon 
tussle tunnel 
  tussled tunnelled 
  tussles tunnels 
  tussling tunnelling
twice twine 
versus Vernon
vest vent
  vested vented
  vesting venting
  vests vents
vesture venture
  vestured ventured
  vestures ventures
  vesturing venturing
vice vine
victorious Victorian
west went
worst weren't
yes yen

John Higgins, Shaftesbury, November 2010.