As an instructor/entertainer (sorry, I simply hate to call myself a teacher), I usually have one or more courses where I explain/present (sorry, but I just don't like to refer to what I do as 'teach') English pronunciation.
One of the many things I discuss is the inevitable similarity between such pairs as 'mince/mints' and 'prince/prints'. You can differentiate one from the other, but they tend to sound very similar. In fact, some speakers (chiefly American speakers) find it difficult to distinguish them.
Just this morning I found a delightful clip to add to my presentation material:
If you happen to know anything like this (or indeed anything of linguistic interest), please let me know. Really, I am easily pleased.
There's an old song called "Secret Agent Man" that has a similar effect. (Found a video -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-8yfFLmQ-c -- with scenes from the TV show "Chuck" on top of the song.)
Firstly, that's hilarious! I've had to watch it three times to get more laughs out of it.
But, in terms of similarity of words, it reminds me of a time I (an Australian) was studying in Rothenburg in Germany and strolling across a street with an American student. I warned him to jump out of the way of a CAR that was coming along the street (slowly, thank God). He just stood there as if amazed, and I had to pull him out of the way.
He was looking all around for a 'cow'.
Great one - thanks! Funny how my ears now refuse to hear anything but 'secret Asian man' there (to be fair, it is partly because the 'man' is somewhat redundant there, too).
Having lived in Australia for some years before, I think I can imagine how you may have sounded when you said 'car' - and how your American friend must have taken it to be 'cow'. Makes me smile even as I write this - I miss the great Australian accents - broad, general and all the rest. In fact, I regularly listen to a podcast programme called 'All in the Mind' from ABC (from Australia, that is).
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