Consonants /t/ versus /k/, 822 pairs     [tapcap.html]

The spelling of /t/ is usually <t> or <tt>, but we also often see <ght>, <th> in Thame, and a silent-letter combinations <bt> in debt. The /k/ sound is usually <c>, or <k> initially and <ck> medially or finally. We also see <qu> in toque. The homograph inter makes pairs with inker and incur.

The contrast is between two voiceless plosives, well separated in the mouth. It may be a problem for some learners, especially when final in the syllable.

Pairs involving taboo words are cot/cock, trap/crap, shat/shack and phut/fuck.

Interesting pairs include:

cubit cubic
inter incur
martyr marker
meditate medicate
minced Minsk
sonnet sonic
steward skewered
tarsal castle
triptych cryptic

The mean density value is 3.3%. The list makes 424 semantic distinctions, a loading of 52%.

This contrast features in Chapter 22 of Samuel Butler's novel The Way of All Flesh, which should be compulsory reading for all pronunciation teachers and speech therapists, indeed all teachers.

In the course of the evening they came into the drawing-room, and, as an especial treat, were to sing some of their hymns to me, instead of saying them, so that I might hear how nicely they sang. Ernest was to choose the first hymn, and he chose one about some people who were to come to the sunset tree. I am no botanist, and do not know what kind of tree a sunset tree is, but the words began, "Come, come, come; come to the sunset tree for the day is past and gone." The tune was rather pretty and had taken Ernest's fancy, for he was unusually fond of music and had a sweet little child's voice which he liked using.
   He was, however, very late in being able to sound a hard "c" or "k," and, instead of saying "Come," he said "Tum tum, tum."
   "Ernest," said Theobald, from the arm-chair in front of the fire, where he was sitting with his hands folded before him, "don't you think it would be very nice if you were to say 'come' like other people, instead of 'tum'?"
   "I do say tum," replied Ernest, meaning that he had said "come."
   Theobald was always in a bad temper on Sunday evening. Whether it is that they are as much bored with the day as their neighbours, or whether they are tired, or whatever the cause may be, clergymen are seldom at their best on Sunday evening; I had already seen signs that evening that my host was cross, and was a little nervous at hearing Ernest say so promptly "I do say tum," when his papa had said he did not say it as he should.
   Theobald noticed the fact that he was being contradicted in a moment. He got up from his arm-chair and went to the piano.
   "No, Ernest, you don't," he said, "you say nothing of the kind, you say 'tum,' not 'come.' Now say 'come' after me, as I do."
   "Tum," said Ernest, at once; "is that better?" I have no doubt he thought it was, but it was not.
    "Now, Ernest, you are not taking pains: you are not trying as you ought to do. It is high time you learned to say 'come,' why, Joey can say 'come,' can't you, Joey?"
   "Yeth, I can," replied Joey, and he said something which was not far off "come."
    "There, Ernest, do you hear that? There's no difficulty about it, nor shadow of difficulty. Now, take your own time, think about it, and say 'come' after me."
   The boy remained silent a few seconds and then said "tum" again.
   I laughed, but Theobald turned to me impatiently and said, "Please do not laugh, Overton; it will make the boy think it does not matter, and it matters a great deal;" then turning to Ernest he said, "Now, Ernest, I will give you one more chance, and if you don't say 'come,' I shall know that you are self-willed and naughty."
    He looked very angry, and a shade came over Ernest's face, like that which comes upon the face of a puppy when it is being scolded without understanding why. The child saw well what was coming now, was frightened, and, of course, said "tum" once more.
    "Very well, Ernest," said his father, catching him angrily by the shoulder. "I have done my best to save you, but if you will have it so, you will," and he lugged the little wretch, crying by anticipation, out of the room. A few minutes more and we could hear screams coming from the dining-room, across the hall which separated the drawing-room from the dining-room, and knew that poor Ernest was being beaten.
    "I have sent him up to bed," said Theobald, as he returned to the drawing-room, "and now, Christina, I think we will have the servants in to prayers," and he rang the bell for them, red-handed as he was.

alight alike
art arc
  arts arcs 
art ark
  arts arks  
ate ache
aught auk
await awake
  awaiting awaking
  awaits awakes
bait bake
  baiting baking
  baits bakes
Bart bark
barter barker 
  barters barkers 
bat back 
  bats backs
  batting backing 
bate bake
  bating baking
  bates bakes
batter backer 
  batters backers 
batty baccy 
beat beak 
  beats beaks 
beater beaker 
  beaters beakers 
beet beak 
  beets beaks 
Bert burke
bet beck 
  bets becks 
bight bike
  bights bikes
bite bike
  biting biking 
  bites bikes
bitter bicker 
  bitters bickers 
bleat bleak 
blot bloc 	  
  blots blocs
blot block
  blotting blocking 
  blots blocks
bottom Bochum 
bought balk 
Brit brick
  Brits bricks
built bilk 
buster busker 
  busters buskers 
but buck 
butt buck
  butting bucking 
  butts bucks
butler buckler 
  butlers bucklers 
cannot Cannock 
cast cask 	
  casts casks
caste cask
  castes casks 
cattle cackle 
caught calk
caught cork 
cheat cheek 
  cheating cheeking 
  cheats cheeks 
chit chick 
  chits chicks 
civet civic
  civets civics
clot clock 
  clots clocks 
  clotting clocking 
coat coke 
  coating coking 
  coats cokes
coats coax 
comet comic 
  comets comics 
cot cock 
  cots cocks 
cottar cocker 
  cottars cockers 
court calk
  courting calking 
  courts calks 
court cork
  courting corking 
  courts corks 
crate crake 
  crates crakes 
cubit cubic 
curt kirk 
dart dark 
debt Dec 
debt deck
  debts decks 
debtor decker 
  debtors deckers 
dirt dirk 
ditty Dicky
ditty dickey 
  ditties dickeys 
dot dock 
  dots docks 
  dotting docking 
dost  dusk
dust dusk
dusty dusky 
  dustier duskier 
  dustiest duskiest 
eat eke 
  eating eking
  eats ekes 
eight ache 
  eights aches 
entrust encrust 
  entrusted encrusted 
  entrusting encrusting 
  entrusts encrusts 
fate fake 
  fates fakes 
fête fake
  fêtes fakes
  fêting faking
fits fix
flat flak 
flats flax
flit flick 
  flits flicks 
  flitting flicking 
flute fluke 
  flutes flukes 
fort fork 
  forts forks 
fought fork
ghat gawk 
  ghats gawks 
ghetto gecko 
  ghettos geckoes 
gnat knack
  gnats knacks
greet Greek 
  greets Greeks 
hart hark 
  harts harks 
hat hack 
  hats hacks
hate hake 
heart hark 
  hearts harks 
height hike
  heights hikes
hit hick 
  hits hicks
hot hock 
  hots hocks 
  hotting hocking 
hotly Hockley 	
inter inker
inter incur 
  interred incurred 
  interring incurring 
  inters incurs 
jot Jock
jotted jockeyed 
Kate cake 
kit kick 
  kits kicks 
  kitting kicking 
knit nick
  knitting nicking 
  knits nicks
knitters knickers 
knot knock 
  knots knocks 
  knotting knocking 
lat lack 
late lake 
latter lacquer 
light like 
  lighting liking 
  lights likes 
light-minded like-minded
lightly likely 
looter lucre
lot loch 
  lots lochs 
lotus locus 
mart mark 
  marts marks 
martyr marker 
  martyrs markers 
mast mask
  masts masks 
mate make 
  mates makes 
  mating making 
mat mac 
  mats macs
matt mac
meat meek
meditate medicate
  meditated medicated
  meditates medicates
  meditating medicating
  meditation medication
  meditations medications
meter meeker
might mike
milt milk
mince minx
mince minks
minced Minsk
missed misc
mite mike
  mites mikes
mitts mix
moat moke
  moats mokes
mussed musk
musty musky
  mustier muskier
  mustiest muskiest
mutt muck
  mutts mucks
Nat knack
natter knacker 
  natters knackers 
net neck
  nets necks
  netting necking
nit nick
  nits nicks
oat oak
  oats oaks
overtook overcook
part park
  parting parking
  parts parks
party parky
pastel paschal
pat pack  
  pats packs
  patting packing
patter packer
  patters packers  
peat peak
peaty peaky
  peatier peakier
  peatiest peakiest
pert perk
pet peck
  pets pecks
  petting pecking
Pete peak
pettish peckish
phut fuck 
pits pyx
port pork
porter porker
  porters porkers
pot pock
  pots pocks
putt puck
  putts pucks
putter pucker
  puttered puckered
  puttering puckering
  putters puckers
quit quick
quitter quicker
rat rack
  rats racks
  ratting racking
rat wrack
  rats wracks
  ratting wracking
rate rake
  rates rakes
  rating raking
ret wreck
  retting wrecking
right Reich
  rights Reichs
rite Reich
  rites Reichs
rot roc
  rots rocs
rot rock  
  rots rocks
  rotting rocking
rotter rocker
  rotters rockers
rust rusk
  rusts rusks
rut ruck
  ruts rucks
  rutting rucking
sat sac
sate sake
  sates sakes
seat seek
  seating seeking  
seat Sikh
  seats Sikhs
set sec
  sets secs
shat shack
shirt shirk
  shirting shirking
  shirts shirks
shot shock
  shots shocks
shut shuck
  shuts shucks
  shutting shucking
silt silk
  silts silks
sit sic
sit sick
  sits sicks
  sitting sicking
slat slack
  slats slacks
slate slake
  slates slakes
  slating slaking
slattern slacken
  slatterns slackens
sleet sleek
  sleeting sleeking
  sleets sleeks
slit slick
  slits slicks
smote smoke
sonnet sonic
sot sock
  sots socks
spate spake
spit spick
spite spike
  spites spikes
  spiting spiking
stab scab
  stabs scabs
stack scat
staff scarf
  staffs scarfs
stain skein
  stains skeins
stair scare
  stairs scares
stale scale
  staled scaled
  stales scales
  staling scaling
stalled scald
stamp scamp
  stamped scamped
  stamping scamping
  stamps scamps
Stan scan
stand scanned
star scar
  stars scars
  starred scarred
  starring scarring
stare scare
  stares scares
  stared scared
  staring scaring
starlet scarlet
  starlets scarlets
start stark
starter starker
  starters starkers
starves scarves
state skate
  stated skated
  states skayes
  stating skating
state stake
  stating staking
  states stakes
step skep
  steps skeps
steppes skeps
sterility scurrility
stew skew
steward skewered
stiff skiff
  stiffs skiffs
stoat stoke
  stoats stokes 
stool school
  stools schools
stoop scoop
  stooped scooped
  stooping scooping
store score
  stored scored
  stores scores
  storing scoring
stout scout
strap scrap
  strapped scrapped
  strapping scrapping
  straps scraps
stream scream
  streamed screamed
  streaming screaming
  streams screams
street streak
  streets streaks
strew screw
  strewed screwed
  strewing screwing
  strews screws
strip scrip
  strips scrips
stripped script
stroll scroll
  strolls scrolls
strum scrum
  strums scrums
strut struck
stud scud
  studded scudded
  studding scudding
  studs scuds
stuff scuff
  stuffed scuffed
  stuffing scuffing
  stuffs scuffs
stunk skunk
sty sky
  sties skies
subtle suckle
T key
  T's keys
T quay
  T's quays
tab cab 
  tabs cabs 
tabby cabby 
  tabbies cabbies 
table cable 
  tabled cabled 
  tables cables 
  tabling cabling 
tabor caber 
  tabors cabers 
tackle cackle
  tackled cackled 
  tackles cackles 
  tackling cackling 
tail kail 
take cake 
  takes cakes 
  taking caking 
tale kail
talk calk
  talked calked 
  talking calking
  talks calks
talk cork
  talked corked 
  talking corking
  talks corks
talker corker 
  talkers corkers 
tall call 
taller caller 
tallow callow 
tamp camp 
  tamped camped 
  tamping camping 
  tamps camps 
tamper camper 
  tampers campers 
tan can 
  tanned canned 
  tanning canning
  tans cans
tannery cannery 
  tanneries canneries 
tanner canna
  tanners cannas 
tap cap 
  taps caps 
  tapping capping 
  tapped capped
tape cape 
  tapes capes 
taper caper 
  tapered capered 
  tapering capering 
  tapers capers 
tapped Capt 
ta car
tar car 
  tars cars 
tare care 
  tares cares 
tarn Calne 
tarn khan
  tarns khans 
tarred card 
tarry carry
  tarried carried 
  tarries carries 
  tarrying carrying 
tarsal castle 
  tarsals castles 
tart cart 
  tarts carts 
  tarted carted 
  tarting carting 
tartan carton 
  tartans cartons 
tartar carter 
  tartars carters 
task cask
  tasks casks
taste cased 
tat tack
  tats tacks
  tatting tacking
tatty tacky
  tattier tackier
  tattiest tackiest
tattle tackle
  tattled tackled
  tattles tackles
  tattling tackling
taught caught
taught court
taught talk
Taurus chorus
taut caught
taut court
tautly courtly 
taut talk
tauter talker
tavern cavern 
  taverns caverns 
tawny corny 
tawse cause 
  tawses causes 
tea key
  teas keys
tea quay
  teas quays  
tear care
  tearing caring 
  tears cares
teat teak
tee key
  teeing keying 
  tees keys
tee quay
  tees quays  
teg keg 
  tegs kegs 
ten ken 
  tens kens 
tend kenned 
tent Kent 
Terry Kerry 
terse curse 
Thame came
thirst Thirsk
tick kick
  ticked kicked 
  ticks kicks
  ticking kicking
tight kite 
  tights kites 
tight tike
  tights tikes
tilde killed 
till kill
  tilling killing 
  tills kills 
tiller killer 
  tillers killers 
tilt kilt 
  tilts kilts 
tined kind 
tip kip 
  tipped kipped 
  tipping kipping 
  tips kips 
tit tic
  tits ticks
titter ticker
  titters tickers
tittle tickle
to coo 
toad code 
  toads codes 
toadied coded 
toast coast 
  toasted coasted 
  toasting coasting 
  toasts coasts 
toaster coaster 
  toasters coasters 
Toby Kobe 
toddle coddle 
  toddled coddled 
  toddles coddles 
  toddling coddling 
toe Co 
toff cough 
  toffs coughs 
toffee coffee 
  toffees coffees 
tog cog 
  togs cogs 
toil coil 
  toiled coiled 
  toiling coiling 
  toils coils 
told coaled 
toll coal 
  tolling coaling 
  tolls coals 
  tolled coaled
tome comb 
  tomes combs 
tone cone 
  toned coned 
  tones cones 
  toning coning 
tonic conic 
Tony coney
too coo
tool cool 
  tooled cooled 
  tooling cooling 
  tools cools 
toot coot
  toots coots 
top cop 
  tops cops 
  topping copping 
  topped copped
tope cope 
  toped coped 
  topes copes 
  toping coping 
topped Copt 
topper copper 
  toppers coppers 
toque coke 
  toques cokes
toques coax 
tor core 
  tors cores
tore core
torn corn 
tort caught
tort court
tosh cosh 
  toshes coshes 
tossed cost 
tot cot 
  tots cots 
tote toque
  totes toques
tote coat
  toted coated 
  totes coats
totter cottar 
  totters cottars 
tough cuff 
  toughs cuffs 
toughly Cuffley 
toupee coupé 
toupees coupés 
tow Co
tower cower 
  towered cowered
  towering cowering 
  towers cowers 
towered coward 
toy coy 
track crack 
  tracked cracked 
  tracking cracking 
  tracks cracks 
tracker cracker 
  trackers crackers 
train crane 
  trained craned 
  training craning 
  trains cranes 
trait crate 
  traits crates 
traitor crater 
  traitors craters 
tram cram 
  trams crams 
tramp cramp 
  tramped cramped 
  tramping cramping 
  tramps cramps 
trap crap 
  trapped crapped 
  trapping crapping 
  traps craps 
trap-shooting crap-shooting 
trawl crawl 
  trawled crawled 
  trawling crawling 
  trawls crawls 
trawler crawler 
  trawlers crawlers 
trays craze 
tree Cree
treed creed 
tress cress 
trews crews 
triced Christ 
tricked cricked 
trier crier 
  triers criers 
triple cripple 
  tripled crippled 
  triples cripples 
  tripling crippling 
tripped crypt 
triptych cryptic 
Troon croon
troop croup 
  troops croups 
troupe croup
  troupes croups
trucks crux 
true crew
trumpet crumpet 
  trumpets crumpets 
trussed crust 
trust crust
  trusted crusted 
  trusting crusting 
  trusts crusts 
trusty crusty 
  trustier crustier 
  trustiest crustiest 
try cry 
  tried cried 
  trying crying 
  tries cries
tub cub 
  tubs cubs 
tuba Cuba 
tube cube 
  tubes cubes 
  tubing cubing 
  tubed cubed
tuft cuffed 
tumulus cumulus 
  tumuli cumuli 
tup cup 
  tups cups 
turd curd 
  turds curds 
Turks kirks
turtle kirtle 
  turtles kirtles 
turves curves 
tut tuck
  tuts tucks
  tutting tucking
tutor cuter 
'tween queen
tweet tweak
  tweeting tweaking
  tweets tweaks
twill quill
twin quin
  twins quins
twos coos 
Tyne kine
vat vac
  vats vacs
vets vex
wait wake
  waiting waking
  waits wakes
wart walk
  warts walks
water walker
  waters walkers
waterway walkaway
  waterways walkaways
welt whelk
  welts whelks
wert work
wheat weak
wheat week
whist whisk
Whit Wick
whit wick
wit wick
  wits wicks
whitlow Wicklow
Witham Wycombe
wrist risk
  wrists risks
writ wrick
  writs wricks  
write Reich
  writes Reichs

John Higgins, Shaftesbury, January 2010.