Consonants /z/ versus /ʃ/, 67 pairs     [zooshoe.html]

The /z/ sound is spelled with <s>, <ss>, <c> or <sc>. The /ʃ/ sound is spelled with <sh>.

This is a contrast between a voiced sibilant fricative and a voiceless fricative, fairly close together in the mouth. The only difference apart from voicing is the way the air is released, through a groove made by the tongue for /z/ and at the front of the tongue for /ʃ/. It can be a problem for Scandinavian, German and Spanish learners.

Several of these pairs arise from contrasting a plural noun with an adjective derived from the same root, such as softies/softish or bookies/bookish. Other interesting pairs include:

brandies brandish
flurries flourish

The mean density value is very low at 0.5%. The list makes 46 semantic distinctions, a loading of 69%.

as ash
boars borsch
bookies bookish
brandies brandish
brownies brownish
caddies caddish
cherries cherish 
craze crèche 
  crazes crèches 
dizzy dishy 
  dizzier dishier 
  dizziest dishiest 
dizzies dishes 
do's douche
fairies fairish
fizz fish 
  fizzes fishes 
  fizzing fishing 
  fizzed fished
fizzy fishy 
  fizzier fishier 
  fizziest fishiest 
flurries flourish 
goes gauche 
goodies goodish
has hash
keys quiche
leas leash
liveries liverish
Mars marsh
mizzen mission 
  mizzens missions 
monkeys monkish
muzzy mushy 
  muzzier mushier 
  muzziest mushiest 
navies knavish 
parries parish 
piggies piggish
polys polish 
readies reddish
slaveys slavish
softies softish
sweeties sweetish
swiz swish 
tsar shah
  tsars shahs
turkeys Turkish 
was wash
wells Welsh
whiz wish
  whizzes wishes
  whizzing wishing
Z shed
  Z's sheds
zee she 
  zees she's 
zip ship 
  zipped shipped 
  zipping shipping 
  zips ships 
zipper shipper 
  zippers shippers 
Zoe showy
zone shown 
zoo shoe 
  zoos shoes

John Higgins, Shaftesbury, November 2010.