Consonants /b/ versus /v/: 144 pairs     [banvan.html]

The spelling of /b/ is always either <b> or <bb>. The /v/ sound is here always spelled <v>.

The contrast is between two voiced consonants, one plosive and one fricative, fairly close in the mouth. It is notoriously a problem for Spanish speakers. On a trip to Spain I remember hearing a Spanish guide leading a party of British tourists asking them to rendezvous at what they all thought was "St Martin's Village" when he meant to say "St Martin's Bridge". The /b/ versus /v/ contrast is not made in Spanish, and his strong articulation of the /r/ made it easily confused with an /l/. Other speakers may have occasional difficulties, especially when the contrast occurs in syllable-final position.

One pair with a slight potential for embarrassment is lab/lav.

Interesting pairs include

bicker vicar
bigger vigour
biking Viking
burble verbal
knobble novel

The mean density value is 1.8%. The list makes 77 semantic distinctions, a loading of 53%.

Aveley ably
B's V's
baas vase
back vac
  backs vacs
bail veil
  bailed veiled
  bailing veiling
  bails veils 
bail vale
  bails vales  
balance valance
  balances valances
bale veil
  bales veils
  baling veiling
  baled veiled
bale vale
  bales va;les
ballet valet
  ballets valets
bally valley
bane vain
bane vein
banish vanish
  banished vanished
  banishes vanishes
  banishing vanishing
bat vat
  bats vats
beano vino
beard veered
becks vex
beer veer
  beers veers
Belem vellum
belt veld
bend vend
  bended vended
  bending vending
  bends vends
bent vent
  bents vents
best vest
  bested vested
  besting vesting
  bests vests
bet vet
  betted vetted
  betting vetting
bib Viv
bicker vicar
  bickers vicars
bide vied
bier veer
  biers veers
bigger vigour
biking Viking 
bile vile
binary vinery
bine vine
  bines vines
biz viz
boat vote
  boated voted
  boating voting
  boats votes
boater voter
  boaters voters
boil voile
bole vole
  boles voles
bolt volt
  bolts volts
bow vow
  bows vows
  bowed vowed
  bowing vowing
bowel vowel
  bowels vowels
box vox
Bulgarian vulgarian
  Bulgarians vulgarians
buoyed void
burble verbal
burst versed
bury very
buy vie
  buying vying
  buys vies
by vie
bye vie
  byes vies
cupboard covered 
curb curve
  curbed curved
  curbing curving
  curbs curves
dub dove
  dubs doves
dribble drivel
  dribbled drivelled
  dribbles drivels
dribbler driveller
  dribblers drivellers
fibre fiver
  fibres fivers
gabble gavel
  gabbles gavels
gibe jive
  gibed jived
  gibes jives
  gibing jiving
grebe grieve
  grebes grieves
hobble hovel
  hobbles hovels
Job Jove
knobble novel
  knobbles novels
Lab lav
  labs lavs
lobes loaves
lubber lover
 lubbers lovers 
marble marvel
  marbled marvelled
  marbles marvels
ob of
rebel revel
  rebels revels
robe rove
  robed roved
  robes roves
  robing roving
sabre savour
  sabred savoured
  sabres savours
  sabring savouring
verb verve
Woburn woven

John Higgins, Shaftesbury, January 2010.