perfect synonyms

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jul 10 15:47:24 UTC 2009

Sounds like "gorse" and "furze" are still the winners.

I might add that "gorse" and "furze" also are synonymous in all contexts and
at all levels of discourse.  A classmate of mine once insisted that "speed"
and "velocity" were just as synonymous.  I tried to disabuse him by pointing
out that "velocity" was far more prevalent in more technical contexts; in
addition, I believe it has certain technical connotations and nuances that
"speed" does not.  Naturally, he shrugged off my objections.

A pair like "aardvark" and "earth-pig" might work, but "earth-pig" is rather
factitious (besides being open to the charge of binomialism or compounding,
unlike "aardvark," at lest in English). Neither "gorse" nor "furze" is


On Fri, Jul 10, 2009 at 11:28 AM, Jim Parish <jparish at> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Jim Parish <jparish at SIUE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: perfect synonyms
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Jonathan Lighter wrote:
> > Years ago I revived the claim that the two most nearly synonymous
> > words in English are "gorse" and "furze."  Not only do they designate
> > the same referent; they are both monosyllabic and even bear a minor
> > phonetic resemblance.
> >
> > I can now reveal two comparably synonymous English words. They are so
> > mundane, however, that no one will be impressed.
> >
> > The envelope please:
> >
> > "Flapjack" and "slapjack."
> Hmm? In my lexicon, "flapjack" is a pancake and "slapjack" is a card
> game.
> Jim Parish
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