Consonants /s/ versus /z/, 281 pairs     [suezoo.html]

The /s/ sound is spelled with <s>, <ss> or <ce>. The /z/ sound is spelled with <s>, <se> or <z>. Seventeen of the pairs are homographs arising from using voicing to turn a noun into a verb as in abuse/abuse. Other common patterns are pairings with an -ous adjective ending and an -ers agent-noun plural such as solicitous/solicitors, and an -ess feminine suffix paired with an -ies abstract noun plural, such as sorceress/sorceries.

This is a contrast between two sibilants distinguished only by voicing. It is a known source of difficulty for Scandinavian, Dutch and German learners, and may cause problems elsewhere.

Taboo word pairs include arse/R's.

Some questions arise about syllable counts. How minimal are the pairs pious/pyres or sharpness/sharpeners, both of which were identified by the algrithm?

The mean density value is 1.2%. The list makes 207 semantic distinctions, a loading of 74%.

abase obeys
abuse abuse
  abuses abuses
ace A's 
adduce adieus
adulteress adulteries
adulterous adulterers 
adventurous adventurers 
advice advise
Alice alleys
ancestress ancestries
Angus angers
apiece appease
arse R's 
ass as 
averse avers 
baas baas
base baize 
basis basses
berths berths 
bias buyers
bodice bodies
bonus boners 
bourse boors 
brace braes
brace braise
  braces braises
  bracing braising
  braced braised
brace brays
brass bras 
Bruce brews
bus buzz
  buses buzzes
  busing buzzing
  bused buzzed
C zee
campus campers 
case K's 
caucus corkers
cease C's 
cease seize
  ceasing seizing
  ceased seized
  ceases seizes
cellars zealous
census censers 
cirrus sirrahs
close close
  closes closes
  closer closeer
coarse cause 
complacence complaisance
  complacent complaisant
coppice copies 
countess counties
course cause
  courses causes 
  coursing causing 
  coursed caused
coyness coiners 
curse curs 
cutlass cutlers
dace days
dance darns
decease disease
  deceases diseases
  deceased diseased
decrease decrees
dense dens 
deuce dues
device devise
devices Devizes 
dice dies
diffuse diffuse
dose does 
dose doze
  doses dozes
  dosing dozing
  dosed dozed
douse dhows 
douse dowse
  dousing dowsing
  doused dowsed
  douses dowses
duchess duchies
dunce duns
else L's 
Erse errs
excuse excuse
  excuses excuses
face phase
  faces phases
  facing phasing
  faced phased
false falls 
fence fens
fierce fears 
fleece fleas 
force fours
foundress foundries
fuss fuzz
  fussy fuzzy
  fussier fuzzier
  fussiest fuzziest
gorse gauze 
grace grays
grace graze
  graces grazes
  gracing grazing
  graced grazed
gristle grizzle
gross grows
Guinness guineas
hearse hers
heiress aeries 
hence hens
hiss his 
hoarse haws 
hoarsely Horsley 
hoarser hawser 
horse haws
house house
humus humours 
ice eyes
idolatress idolatries
induce endues 
Joyce joys
juice Jews 
Kansas cancers
lace lays
lace laze
  laces lazes
  lacing lazing
  laced lazed
lacy lazy
  lacier lazier
  laciest laziest
lance larns
laundress laundries
lease leas 
less Les 
lice lies
loose loos 
loose lose
  looses loses
  loosing losing
looser loser
mace Mays 
mace maze
  maces mazes
mace maize
manse mans 
minus miners 
Miss Ms
missal mizzle
  missals mizzles
misuse misuse
  misuses misuses
moose moos 
Morse maws
mouse mows
murderous murderers 
muscle muzzle
  muscled muzzled
  muscles muzzles
  muscling muzzling
nebulous nebulas 
Nice knees
niece knees
noose gnus 
Norse gnaws
once ones
onus owners
pace pays
pampas pampers
Paris parries
parlous parlours 
pass parse
  passes parses 
  passing parsing 
  passed parsed
peace P's 
peace peas
penance pennons
pence pens
Phyllis fillies
piece P's
piece peas
pierce peers 
pinnace pinnies
pious pyres
place plays
porpoise paupers 
posset posit 
  possets posits 
precedent president
  precedents presidents
precious pressures
press Pres 
price pries
price prise
  prices prises
  pricing prising
  priced prised
price prize
  prices prizes
  pricing prizing
  priced prized
primers primus
prioress priories
prospectus prospectors 
puce pews 
purse purrs 
quince quins
race raise
  races raises
  racing raising
  raced raised
race rays
race raze
  races razes
  racing razing
  raced razed
racer raiser
  racers raisers
rice rise
riotous rioters 
said Z 
sap zap
  sapped zapped
  sapping zapping
  saps zaps
sauce saws
sauce sores
scarce scares
science scions
scion Zion 
sconce scones
sea zee
see zee
sense sends 
sharpness sharpeners 
sing zing
sink zinc
sip zip
  sipped zipped
  sipping zipping
  sips zips
slanderous slanderers 
sluice slews 
slumberous slumberers 
solicitous solicitors 
sorceress sorceries
sou zoo
  sous zoos
souse sows
sown zone
space spays
sparse spars 
spice spies
stiffness stiffeners 
sue zoo
  sues zoos
Swiss swiz
tense tens 
tenuous tenures
terrace terrors
trace trays
treatise treaties 
trice tries
truce trews 
use use	 
used used
uses uses
vice vies
victorious victorias 
Wallace wallahs
waltz walls 
whence wens 
worse whirrs 

John Higgins, Shaftesbury, November 2010.