Scent, cent, and sent are all pronounced identically, but mean wildly different things

I can’t imagine why all these foreigners complain about English being hard to learn.

You’re welcome, world!

English is easy to learn

spelling isn’t important for speaking

Of all the things that could make a foreign language hard to learn, is the existence of homophones really all that high on the list?

Down with homophonophobia!

Picture hands holding a knife removing the outside of two pieces of fruit.

Par(e)ing a pair of pears.

I always felt through, though, tough and trough would be uniquely irritating for English learners. All of them are spelled irregularly yet similarly for no real reason, pronounced slightly similarly yet differently, and mean completely different things.

Isaac Asimov once had a mystery hinge on how two and to and too do likewise. (As for me, I want to author the correct ‘builder’ ceremony – to write the right wright rite.)

If it’s the “ough” you’re specifically referring to, be sure to include “bough,” “dough,” “drought” and “b(r)ought.” There’re probably more.

There are six words in French pronounced identically (two are also spelled the same):
verre (glass)
vert (green)
vers (towards)
vers (verse)
ver (worm, plural vers)
vaire (some kind of fur; apparently Cinderella’s “glass” slipper was really a fur slipper in the original)

I took an entry-level linguistics course once and one of our assignments (I swear I remember it like it was assigned to me yesterday) was to come up with as many “common” English words that had the “ough” combination of letters in them. You’ve provided some. (I think the answer was something like 10 or 12 words but that particular detail escapes me [these 28 or so years later])

How’s THIS for confusing: the word “slough.” I’d always thought it was pronounced “sluf” and it is, but not all that far from where I live there’s something called the “Sammamish Slough” and, apparently, THAT “Slough” is pronounced “Sloo.” I didn’t know that and I’m a native English speaker. Imagine what that’d be like for someone who isn’t!

To add to the confusion, to the west of London there’s a town called Slough. It’s pronounced like ‘plow’. :confused:

To get even more confusing, ‘plow’ (as in the farm implement) is spelt ‘plough’ in British English. So that’s another ‘ough’ pronounciation. :rolleyes:

I think the sentence is Roald Dahl’s: “The tough ploughs through the slough.” Four pronunciations of the four-letter combination, assuming you pronounce “slough” as “slow,” which is the pronunciation I always heard.

Don’t get me started on ‘hiccough’.

are they really pronounced exactly the same?

If you’re talking different sounds, 10 or 12 seems about right. If you’re talking all words with “ough” in them, I’ll betcha it’s double that. Quite a versatile combo.

Cripes, I’m in Texas and that word is all over the South and I had no idea it was pronounced that way. I’ve been calling Bart’s teacher “Crandall.” Oh, I’ve been making an idiot of myself! ::runs, sobbing, from room::


Yeah, I didn’t make that clear in my original post. They were looking for the “ough” combination in different words in which the “ough” combination was pronounced differently. Correct.

I was talking with my mom about this the other day and told her I’m going to write a stiff letter to the Office of the English Language asking them to replace all homophones with one single spelling, preferably the simplest: if we can figure it out in spoken language, it doesn’t add anything to the written language.

While I’m at it, I will ask them to give “their” official status as a legal gender-neutral second-person pronoun.

Squirrel. It’s a word in English, as “vair.”

/slaʊ/ isn’t it? With the “ow” pronounced like it is when you hit your hand with a hammer.
But I normally think of it as pronounced “slew” as in: “Northern U.S. and Canadian. a marshy or reedy pool, pond, inlet, backwater, or the like.” It’s the other pronunciation if it’s wet dirt instead of dirty water.

Here’s a Wiki entry that gives 10 varieties of the pronunciation of “ough”.

Which “they”?

cent- seems to be slightly harder at the beginning
scent- seems to be slightly longer at the beginning
sent- is shortest with least emphasis at beginning