Ask LLOG: "friends" vs. "flense"

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Query from reader RR:

Just trying to get unpaid labor from a phonetician here…

I've written a puzzle which involves swapping out one phoneme for another in various words. A couple of testsolvers have objected that "flense" doesn't become "friends" if you change the second phoneme; they insist they pronounce the D in "friends" (or don't have a D in the transition from N to Z in "flense", if you prefer).

Try as I might, I can't pronounce those two words such that they don't rhyme exactly, at least without sounding like an idiot. And like all people, I of course believe my self-judgment of phonetics is better than average. :-)

To start with, there's an issue with flense.

The OED gives three pronunciations, rhyming with bench, finch, and dense — and none of those pronunciations are an appropriate basis for RR's puzzle, since to pair with friends he needs something that ends in [nz], not [nʃ] or  [ns] — that is, something that rhymes with dens, not bench or  dense.  [Update: as Ben Zimmer points out in the comments, the OED also gives three spellings — "flench" and "flinch" as well as "flense".]

Merriam-Webster gives only the rhymes-with-dense pronunciation (which is what I assumed, though not with much confidence), and so does Wiktionary.

Apparently RR has /flɛnz/ rather than /flɛns/, as indicated by his focus on the issue of whether people "pronounce the D in 'friends' or don't have a D in the transition from N to Z in 'flense'". That's an interesting and difficult question, if we're applying it to tends vs. tens, or  tents vs. tense, etc. [And of course RR's original question is valid for people who have his pronunciation of flense.]

In case of English monosyllabic wordforms ending in /ndz or /nts/, we're in the domain of what sociolinguists call "t/d deletion". This is an unfortunate and misleading choice of terminology, referencing a range of phenomena from gradient reduction to full lexical substitution. And for the monosyllables ending in /nz/ or /ns/, we're in the domain of what phoneticians call "epenthetic stops".

From an articulatory point of view, you can think of such words as a trio for velum, tongue, and larynx. After the release of the syllable onset (if any), the velum opens through the vowel, and remains open for the nasal murmur if there is one, but needs to be shut again for the  [d] or [t] (if any) and the [z] or [s]; the tongue tip closes for the [n] and [d] or [t] (if any) and then arranges a narrow opening to generate the fricative noise; and the larynx maintains voicing at least through the vowel and the [n] and [d] (if any), but usually arranges for voicing to weaken or stop for the fricative, even if it's nominally a /z/.

The coordination among these articulators spans an rich space of rate, amplitude, and phase relations, whose acoustic consequences are widely and interestingly variable. My opinion, FWIW, is that there is no such thing a rule of "t/d deletion" or a rule of "t/d epenthesis". Rather, that space of rate, amplitude and phase relations creates overlapping distributions of phonetic realization for words ending any of /ndz/, /nz/, /nts/, /ns/. It's easy for phonologists to interpret this phonetic variation in terms of deletion or epenthesis of segments, even when the speaker's phonological intent is what the standard dictionary says it should be. And sometimes speakers do the same thing, and internalize alternative pronunciations with fewer or more consonants than the standard dictionary prescribes.

In any case, there's  no question that in (most varieties of?) English, normal fluent productions of these phonological categories are (often) ambiguous.

To illustrate this point, here's a little quiz on lends v. lens. There are 12 audio clips, taken from passages in LibriSpeech, a small (1000 hour) sample of the LibriVox collection of public-domain audiobooks. Each one is either the word lends or the word lens — see if you can guess the answers:


The answers are here, along with links to the phrases that the selection came from.

This is a bit unfair, since there are lot of reasons that it's hard to process words taken out of phrasal context, but it's a start.

My belief is that a larger and more careful experiment would show that this is an example of a "near merger", where the realizations of two historically distinct phonological classes comes to overlap (at least in some contexts) to the point that listeners can no longer distinguish them reliably, although speakers continue to produce statistically different distributions.



  1. Philip Taylor said,

    March 18, 2018 @ 2:54 pm

    I too had always thought that "flense" was pronounced /flɛnz/; it came as a complete surprise on reading this thread to discover that, at least as far as the OED is concerned, I was completely wrong. One lives and learns !

  2. Elonkareon said,

    March 18, 2018 @ 3:01 pm

    The biggest issue here seems to be that RR is (mis?)pronouncing flense as /flenz/, not the (possible) t/d-deletion. Perhaps this is a spelling pronunciation, as it's not a word that often comes up in speech.

    Speaking of t/d-deletion, the inverse happens as well e.g. fence pronounced /fents/, prince pronounced /prints/.

    [(myl) Yes, that's what I referred to as "t/d epenthesis".]

  3. Ben Zimmer said,

    March 18, 2018 @ 3:09 pm

    Mark writes: "The OED gives three pronunciations, rhyming with bench, finch, and dense…"

    The OED entry, which looks to be unchanged since it was first published in 1896, is perhaps less than clear on this point, but the three pronunciations correspond with three spelling variants: flench, flinch, and flense. Other dictionary entries, like this one from Collins, are more explicit about this. The flense variant is the one that rhymes with dense.

  4. Robert Ayers said,

    March 18, 2018 @ 4:02 pm

    Another vote for "always thought that 'flense' was pronounced /flɛnz/" Background: Twenty years in Massachusetts, last forty-plus years in California.

  5. Q. Pheevr said,

    March 18, 2018 @ 4:03 pm

    You can count me along with RR and Philip Taylor as having always assumed that flense rhymed with cleanse. In my case, I’m fairly certain I first encountered the word in writing, specifically in Judy Blume’s novel Blubber, and in fact I don’t know whether I’ve ever actually heard it spoken at all. But it’s also kind of funny that this should be (as Elonkareon suggests) a spelling pronunciation—what’s the model? Among more frequent verbs, the ones that are orthographically closest are sense and tense, which both have /s/ (as do disyllabic condense, less frequent cense, and the adjective dense). So why did I think it ought to rhyme with cleanse? Some semantic association between cleaning and the removal of outer layers?

  6. AntC said,

    March 18, 2018 @ 4:07 pm

    To start with, there's an issue with 'flense'.

    Yes, for me (Br.E) it's so rare I have no confidence how to pronounce it, as @Elonkareon says. I'm not sure I've heard it spoken. (Is it in Moby Dick? Also I might have read it in writings on the New Zealand whaling industry — there's a few historical haul-out sites around the coasts.)

    Whereas the flinch variant (thank you @Ben) I'm familiar with — that's a homonym to jerk/dodge.

  7. Jamie said,

    March 18, 2018 @ 4:26 pm

    I was about to say that I had no idea what the word meant when the meaning came to me. Strange how the mind works.

    As far as I know I have never heard the word pronounced but was fairly sure it was /flɛns/

  8. M.N. said,

    March 18, 2018 @ 5:06 pm

    This reminds me of the phenomenon where viewers of the show Countdown complain that "people ask for a 'continent' when they mean 'consonant'" (part of the game involves calling for consonant and vowel letters to be drawn from a deck of cards, which you use to spell words), and therefore Kids These Days are illiterate, or whatever.

    In my case, I’m fairly certain I first encountered the word in writing, specifically in Judy Blume’s novel Blubber

    Me too!

  9. ardj said,

    March 18, 2018 @ 5:15 pm

    Concur that only ever read and assumed the z sound, and don't know why except that it perhaps sounds more forceful. Sure Professor Liberman is right, and suppose that he told RR that RR was mistaken (tho' ? Robert Ayers)

    But I thought that epenthesis meant vowel movement / introduction, not consonant introduction – or am I even less well-informed than I supposed ?

    [(myl) The term epenthesis (which after all is just from Greek ἐπί in addition + ἐν in + θέσις placing) is used for the insertion of consonants as well as vowels. Epenthetic vowels are more common — or at least more commonly noticed — than epenthetic consonants, which is presumably why Google Scholar has 3300 hits for the vowels and just 452 for the consonants.]

  10. Geoff said,

    March 18, 2018 @ 5:40 pm

    Lens versus lends: I listened to each of these once and wrote down my answer immediately before proceeding to the next.
    I felt quite confident about most of my answers.
    I got four out of twelve right.
    Back to the drawing board.

  11. DTI said,

    March 18, 2018 @ 6:07 pm

    Hmm. Whichever adult I heard it from in elementary school must have been thinking “lens” or “cleanse” when deciding how to pronounce it. Or maybe it’s just how Americans in the rural south all pronounce it. To be honest I only remember it with -ing” as in flensing knife.

    Based on comments I’d say that despite the OED’s prescription, enough people pronounce it RR’s way that friends/flense would work well enough for his game

  12. EvelynU said,

    March 18, 2018 @ 6:22 pm

    Friends vs. flense…first of all, I would (I think) pronounce flense just like fence, but with an L. And so I think there's a difference in vowel length between friends (fre:nz) and flense (flens) as there would also be between friends and fence. This is odd, because the /n/ should control vowel length, but it seems to me, as a native speaker, that the final sibilant makes a difference, with the vowel in friends being noticeably longer than the vowel in fence or flense. (How about a comparison of the vowel length in bent vs.bend? Isn't the vowel in bend being affected by the d?) I teach ESL and tell my students that the consonant after the vowel determines vowel lengthening, but perhaps that's a half-truth?

  13. Joe Fineman said,

    March 18, 2018 @ 8:35 pm

    Perhaps the most familiar such pair is {sense, cents}, which is often used for punning ("the age of dollars and no sense" — E. E. Cummings). I have always thought I pronounce them the same, but some people claim they distinguish them, and now it seems I can too, if I try.

  14. Joyce Melton said,

    March 18, 2018 @ 10:27 pm

    I've never heard flense pronounced with an s sound, that I am aware of. Maybe in some British movie. But then I am from the rural South where the word is not extinct but is used to describe the process of removing skin from a carcass, or removing the fatty layer next to the skin.

    Pronouncing it like flints would sound weird. I can deliberately pronounce a d (or t) in such a word but I can't actually hear any significant difference. Maybe if someone else pronounced it with me listening.

  15. Jerry Friedman said,

    March 18, 2018 @ 10:28 pm

    I learned "flense" from Moby-Dick and "flench" in that sense from Kipling's poem "The Last Chantey". I'm not sure I've seen either anywhere else.

    I'm used to hearing British people say that Americans mispronounce "sense" as "cents" and so forth, and I think I always have a /t/ in there, but I don't know how many Americans and how many Brits do.

    What did Cinderella say when her photos didn't show up?

  16. Adrian said,

    March 18, 2018 @ 11:32 pm

    I got 10/12 on the lends/lens puzzle. I found it helped to do it quickly. The first four I took my time over, and only got two of them right.

    Still, the words are almost identical, and it's a shame that facts like this are not taught in school. It might save a lot of thankless arguing later.

    (p.s. Flense is not a word I remember seeing or hearing.)

  17. Michael Watts said,

    March 19, 2018 @ 2:20 am

    Hmm. The quiz is odd from my perspective. For example, #6 seemed to stand out as having more of a [d] present (although I have very little actual confidence in this judgment). But the quiz is impossible even if I do perfectly at identifying what sounds are present, because I don't expect speakers to draw any distinction between lends and lens. Maybe there is a [d] and maybe there isn't, maybe I can tell whether it's there and maybe I can't, but neither of those answers provides any evidence, in my mind, for which word the speaker meant to produce.

    [(myl) Another difficulty with the quiz, of course, is the fact that the speakers are from several different parts of the anglophone world. I suspect that many speakers pronounce these two words in statistically different but overlapping ways, especially in more formal and careful speech. But the natural processes of phonetic implementation in this context tend to blur the boundaries, even for those who have not fully collapsed the categories.]

  18. Michael Watts said,

    March 19, 2018 @ 2:23 am

    As to the pronunciation of flense, I'm in the same boat as Q. Pheevr; passingly familiar with the word, possibly never heard it spoken at all, but always assumed it was pronounced with /z/.

  19. Charlotte said,

    March 19, 2018 @ 8:35 am

    An archaeologist here; flensing knives are something that we find on coastal sites where there's whaling or whale processing. So they come up in conversation; all the archaeologists I've known say flense as in dense.

  20. Ian said,

    March 19, 2018 @ 8:52 am

    I don't understand why anybody would assume that is pronounced [flɛnz] based on the written form. I can't think of any similarly spelled word that ends in [z], but there are many pronounced with [s], like sense, dense, Pence, tense, etc, not even counting multisyllabic words ending with the same segments (incense, for example). I've never encountered the word before, but analogically I would guess that it's pronounced [flɛns] if I saw it written, as I did in this post.

  21. Robert Coren said,

    March 19, 2018 @ 9:34 am

    I believe I first encountered flense in writing, but in participle form; if memory serves, a question is raised somewhere in Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land about whether tattoos could be removed "with a flensing knife". I assumed a /z/ in flensing, perhaps erroneously.

    @Elonkareon mentions prince/prints, which reminds me of the drama counselor (and inveterate punster) at a camp where I worked many moons ago, announcing that he was going to be doing a session about photographs of small Danish villages, i.e., "hamlet prints of Denmark".

  22. Philip Taylor said,

    March 19, 2018 @ 9:55 am

    Ian ("I don't understand why anybody would assume that is pronounced [flɛnz] based on the written form") — perhaps by mentally modelling the sound on those of "cleanse" and "glens" ? I was unable to find any other English words of the form /<consonant>lɛn{s|z}/, so it would not be unreasonable to assume that all three were pronounced similarly.

  23. J.W. Brewer said,

    March 19, 2018 @ 10:58 am

    I have likewise always assumed (probably ever since boyhood exposure to some book about old-timey whaling, not necessarily Moby Dick in the first instance) a /z/ in flense but on reflection share Ian's puzzlement as to why it wouldn't be analogous to dense/immense/suspense/etc. I'm not sure I've ever heard it uttered aloud so my assumption must be a spelling pronunciation, but that did not lead me to the rhymes-with-dense one, which does seem curious. Maybe Philip Taylor's suggestion satisfactorily accounts for it, but then we're beyond a super-strict "spelling pronunciation" since e.g. lens and cleanse aren't spelled lense and clense, but are instead working by analogy at a level slightly abstracted from the spellings.

  24. Terry Hunt said,

    March 19, 2018 @ 11:56 am

    A BrE speaker here who has always (mentally) pronounced "flense" to rhyme with "cleanse". Although I doubtless first encountered the word in writing, I'm sure that over the last six decades I must have heard it spoken on historical and/or nature documentaries, and would have noticed had it been pronounced differently. Being a voracious reader and hence something of an autodidact, I've always been aware that I sometimes adopt incorrect 'spelling pronunciations', and alert to authoritative contradictions.

  25. Lynette Mayman said,

    March 19, 2018 @ 1:02 pm

    I too am a BrE speaker who had always thought flense was only /s/ from Shakespearean productions and see the OED back me up. I pronounce the /d/ in friends and lends and think it is easier to detect the differences between lens and lends. I took your test quickly and missed two.

  26. Nelson said,

    March 19, 2018 @ 1:17 pm

    I got precisely 50% correct/wrong on the quiz — I apparently can't distinguish the two at all without context. I'd be interested to find out what the inverse would be (whether there are any phonetic differences in my production of the two words).

  27. Robert Ayers said,

    March 19, 2018 @ 1:35 pm

    After my previous post I wondered "how did I learn that pronunciation?" (I am in the /flɛnz/ camp). It's not like my family sat around the house discussing our whaling activities. Q Pheever, DTI, and Philip Taylor all note the connection to "cleanse". That sounds good to me.

  28. Scott P. said,

    March 19, 2018 @ 2:27 pm

    I have likewise always assumed (probably ever since boyhood exposure to some book about old-timey whaling, not necessarily Moby Dick in the first instance) a /z/ in flense but on reflection share Ian's puzzlement as to why it wouldn't be analogous to dense/immense/suspense/etc.

    None of your examples are verbs. Most people I think first encounter the term in its gerund form — flensing (like a 'flensing knife'). There is no *densing, *suspensing or *immensing to use as an analogy. I'm not sure I've ever seen the word in its pure verbal form.

    We do have cleansing and lensing, though, which have the 'z' pronunciation.

  29. Philip Taylor said,

    March 19, 2018 @ 2:52 pm

    Scott P : much as I agree that the fact that "flense", like "cleanse", is indeed a verb is perhaps the most significant factor yet adduced, I must point out that the gerund/participle "sensing" is well-attested, as are "fencing" (admittedly with a "c") and "tensing" .

  30. Michael Watts said,

    March 19, 2018 @ 3:05 pm

    I felt quite confident about most of my answers.
    I got four out of twelve right.

    I got 10/12 on the lends/lens puzzle. I found it helped to do it quickly.

    I got precisely 50% correct/wrong on the quiz — I apparently can't distinguish the two at all without context.

    As I understand things, the only answer key we have specifies the speaker's intent, not the speaker's production. And while the ability to judge that correctly in this context is interesting in itself, I don't think "what did the speaker mean to say?" is the same question as "what did the speaker actually say?". Can we know how much of a [d] is present in each recording? How close of a relationship is there between getting the answers "correct" in that the recordings you identified as "lens" tended to be drawn from sentences in which they were meant as "lens", and getting them "correct" in the sense that the recordings you identified as "lens" tended to have less [d] than the ones you identified as "lends"?

  31. Martha said,

    March 19, 2018 @ 3:32 pm

    Following from Michael Watt's comment, after listening to the first few, I realized that I wasn't going to be able to tell them apart based on whether I could detect a [d] and started listening to the intonation to try to see what point in their sentence the speaker was at. Now that I think about it, I don't know how reasonable a strategy that is, but I got 8/12.

    (Also I don't know much about the game RR is developing, but it seems to require more awareness of one's own pronunciation than the typical person has. Of course people think they always say the "d" in "friends." It's in the spelling. People probably think, for example, that they pronounce -ing endings "correctly" more often than they actually do, too.)

  32. Rubrick said,

    March 19, 2018 @ 7:46 pm

    Thanks for the post, Mark! It hadn't even occurred to me (nor to the two testsolvers who objected to the "missing d") that flense might end with an unvoiced "s".

    Why I had any confidence that I knew how the word was pronounced at all is a mystery; it's quite possible I'd never heard it spoken aloud in my life.

    [(myl) Same here, though I had the impression it would rhyme with dense rather than dens.]

  33. Ellen Kozisek said,

    March 19, 2018 @ 8:21 pm

    On the quiz, my sense listening was that all of them could be either.

  34. dainichi said,

    March 19, 2018 @ 9:39 pm

    I just recently thought about how differently I pronounce /ndz/ and /nz/ after reading the line

    "Bim bends Ben's broom."

    from Dr. Seuss' Fox In Sox for my son.

  35. Ethan said,

    March 19, 2018 @ 11:07 pm

    In support of "flensing" with a z sound, I offer up a shanty written by whaler/songster Harry Robertson. According to the liner notes on one of his albums: "Harry was a Scotsman who came to Australia in the 1950s. He whaled out of Ballina, Queensland and Norfolk Island in ex-World War 2 Fairmiles when the industry had become more mechanised." I can't find a youtube version of Harry singing the song himself, but here's a link to a version by a group called Faustus who almost certainly learned it from him. Ballina Whalers

  36. TIC said,

    March 20, 2018 @ 8:04 am

    All of this, and a good deal of consideration of the prince/prints merger, makes me realize that it's pretty much impossible for me — without resorting to extreeeme over-articulation, to the point almost of manufacturing a second syllable — to even carefully and intentionally produce a discernible difference in my pronunciations of "prince" and "prints"… Or "lens" and "lends"… Or "tense" and "tents"… Etc….

    I'm now quite intrigued by this realization, and am hoping that a bit more sleuthing into the subject might, among other things, suggest whether my dialect (central New Jersey, with both New York and Philadelphia influences) might be a pertinent factor…

    Also, I scored just 5-out-of-12 on the quiz… I dunno, though, whether that suggests that I can hear the distinction no better than I can produce it… It's almost as if, for me, the distinction is all but nonexistent… And I'm almost to the point of questioning whether in reality it truly exists at all… For anyone(!)…

    So it looks as if my ongoing sleuthing needs to include some careful, targeted listening…

  37. TIC said,

    March 20, 2018 @ 8:21 am

    I forgot to mention, FWIW, that — although I'm not sure I've ever heard it pronounced (or until now ever pronounced it aloud myself) — "flense" has always been /flens/ (rhyming with "sense") in my mind's ear… And I suspect that this automatic assumption might have been influenced by an immediate association, whether etymologically correct or not, with "fleece" (and its s-rather-than-z ending sound)…

  38. BZ said,

    March 20, 2018 @ 11:42 am

    I've never heard of the word flense (and neither has my spellchecker), but upon seeing it, I assume a "z" sound. I feel like there is some sort of rule of voicing an "s" before a vowel, though of course it's not universal. Words ending in ise/ize are probably the closest large class of parallels I can think of.

    As for z vs dz, I feel like I am saying them differently, but the produced sound is not different in any meaningful way (similar to how "f" and "th" can be impossible to distinguish despite being produced in completely different ways). On the other hand, I feel like the same cannot be said for "s" vs "ts". There is always a difference. Perhaps this is a residual Russian thing (ts is one letter in Russian, quite distinct from s, and can occur after n, while dz is just a two-letter combination as in English)

  39. Ellen K. said,

    March 20, 2018 @ 2:11 pm

    @BZ, if you mean before a silent vowel letter (when you say "before a vowel"), my inclination is the opposite. To me, it seems like the silent in in the spelling indicates the s represents an unvoiced pronunciation. Though in the comments I've seen one counterexample to that, cleanse. But there's been multipels words here in the comments where it's unvoiced. Dense, sense, tense, incense.

  40. Robert said,

    March 20, 2018 @ 9:53 pm

    I don't think I've ever heard anyone say "flense," but I always assumed it rhymed with dense, sense, and tense. That's the pronunciation given in Webster's 3rd.

  41. Thomas said,

    March 20, 2018 @ 11:16 pm

    As I suppose, the word is originally Norwegian; /flense/ /s/ /a/ [please excuse keyboard limitations]

  42. thomas quinn said,

    March 20, 2018 @ 11:20 pm

    Or, perhaps, Old Norse? "den danske sprog"?

  43. thomas quinn said,

    March 20, 2018 @ 11:24 pm

    So, Norwegian, "flense" – to skin out, f.x. a seal /flense/ /s/ /a/ [please excuse keyboard limitations] Perhaps Old Norse "den danske sprog"?

  44. poftim said,

    March 21, 2018 @ 2:17 am

    Similar to Martha, I didn't base my decision on whether I could hear a [d], with the possible exception of number 8. I figured that "lens" would be emphasized more than "lends", so would be pronounced with more force and/or would take longer to say. That strategy only got me 50%. Of course, out of context you can't gauge *relative* speed or force of a particular word.
    FWIW (BrE speaker), I think I pronounce the two words identically.

    I also agree with Martha that RR's game requires far more awareness of one's own pronunciation and phonology in general than the average person has. Ask people how many sounds are in "throng" or "beach" and you'll get all kinds of answers.

  45. /df said,

    March 21, 2018 @ 8:21 am

    BrE, with all the folk who rhymed with cleanse, but then how likely is it that one would ever need to pronounce the word flense when not reading out books on whaling (or perhaps discussing phonetics)? However I'd certainly have rhymed with sense if attempting a Scandinavian accent.

    With lens/lends I can clearly feel myself using the alveolar ridge in the former case and the back of the teeth in the latter (in , position 5 vs 3-4). In continuous speech it may not be an audible difference: I failed badly on the 12 samples.

  46. /df said,

    March 21, 2018 @ 8:23 am

    The missing link:

  47. Jerry Friedman said,

    March 21, 2018 @ 12:27 pm

    I feel sure that when I first saw "flense", I mentally pronounced it to rhyme with "dens". I have no idea why, since as people have pointed out, almost all the analogies are the other way. "Cleanse" is the only word at that rhymes with "dens" and ends with -nse.

    I'll just add that "lense" for "lens" is a fairly common spelling error, as spelling errors go. (It would be nice to have a corpus of un-spellchecked writing.)

    Next: Alphonse.

  48. Xtifr said,

    March 21, 2018 @ 1:07 pm

    how likely is it that one would ever need to pronounce the word flense when not reading out books on whaling

    Anyone inquiring about knifes for sale at a sporting goods store may have encountered the term "flensing". It's also found in horror novels (flensing knives are nice and big and scary.) Vernor Vinge's award-winning SF novel A Fire Upon the Deep has an alien would-be dictator who has earned the sobriquet "The Flenser".

    As for the pronunciation, it probably is still rare enough that lexicographers may not have explored the full range of regional variations. Webster's, for example, may have simply taken Oxford's word on how it's pronounced. Or maybe not. I suspect it's had to find in standard spoken-voice corpora. However, some enlightenment might be found by searching YouTube. (I was going to try as a sort of breakfast experiment, but decided I wasn't in the mood to watch videos of whales being flensed.)

  49. marie-lucie said,

    March 23, 2018 @ 9:26 pm

    In Winnipeg (Manitoba, Canada) a company that apparently buys furs from trappers and sells a variety of items useful for trappers and people living in the North in general, puts out a catalogue where I once encountered pictures of "flensing knives". The term was new to me but I figured out what the knives must be for. I first thought the word must be pronounced with [s] but later switched to a [z] on the model of cleanse (a word which I long thought has [s] until I heard it from a Canadian speaker). I have not had the opportunity to hear or pronounce "flensing" or "flense" and am willing to adopt the usage of persons familiar with the activity and tool.

  50. Frank Y. Gladney said,

    March 24, 2018 @ 2:50 am

    When /ns/ is separated by a word boundary, as in _ten cents_ vs. _tense end_, there's a difference, but with /ns#/ I don't think so.

  51. Garrett Wollman said,

    March 30, 2018 @ 8:13 am

    Ten days late, but I thought it perhaps relevant to the first word in this alternation that the fan club for the former New Zealand band Split Enz is called "Frenz of the Enz". (It's also the fan club for the former New Zealand band Crowded House and presumably also lead singer Neil Finn.)

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