The other day I surprised some people by using "knickers" as if it were a swearword. I explained that it was a very mild swearword which was unlikely to cause offence. The conversation led on to "sugar" which is even more mild. I also started to say that "sugar" has the advantage that if you start to say "***" at an inappropriate time, you can switch to "sugar". But when I tried it I found it surprisingly difficult and noticed that I pronounce the /S/ at the beginning of these words quite differently.
I am aware of allophones of various English phonemes and that some are distinct phonemes in other languages but I had not noticed this one. Are these allophones distinguished in IPA (I have not noticed it) and do any languages distinguish them? I should look again at Mandarin since that seems to have several sounds in the /s/ /S/ area which I may not be getting quite right.
For US friends, I think knickers can be translated as panties.

Seán O'Leathlóbhair
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On 18 Jun 2004 02:30:14 -0700, Sean O'Leathlobhair (Email Removed) wrote, in part:
The other day I surprised some people by using "knickers" as if it were a swearword. I explained that it was a very mild swearword which was unlikely to cause offence. The conversation led on to "sugar" which is even more mild.

I wouldn't consider it a swear word. I'd consider it a substitute for one.
I also started to say that "sugar" has the advantage that if you start to say "***" at an inappropriate ... I found it surprisingly difficult and noticed that I pronounce the /S/ at the beginning of these words quite differently.

The only difference for me is rounding, I think. Can you describe your difference?
SeBn O'LeathlI saw it with a lowercase beta where there's now a B, and a less-than-or- equal-to sign where there's now a less-than sign.
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For US friends, I think knickers can be translated as panties.

From M-W online:
Main Entry: knick·ers
Pronunciation: 'ni-k&rz
Function: noun plural
Etymology: short for knickerbockers

1 : loose-fitting short pants gathered at the knee
2 chiefly British : UNDERPANTS

Meaning 1 was my own impression of knickers knee-length pants, not necessarily (in fact, probably not at all) underwear.

So, thank you for the translation of "knickers" to "panties." (Several people will now want to remind me that they have offered the same information before. All I can say is that that doesn't mean I took notice and remembered.(1))
By the way, I am as likely to say "underpants" as "panties."

(1) I can't remember everything. My brain is nearly full. There are all those old phone numbers, some easy recipes, names of people I've known or read about, the rules for six-handed pinochle, how to play "Whispering Hope" on the organ and "Chopsticks" on the piano, how much gas is currently in my truck, what bills I need to pay, how to get to Central Lake (MI) if we ever decide to go again, and millions of things relating to my children and grandchild. Not much room left.

Maria Conlon
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The other day I surprised some people by using "knickers" as if it were a swearword. I explained that it ... area which I may not be getting quite right. For US friends, I think knickers can be translated as panties.

Underpants? What's so hard about that? Panties are what lil' girls and lil' hoes wear. Knickers sounds like a basketball team!
I also started to say that "sugar" has the advantage that if you start to say "***" at an inappropriate ... I found it surprisingly difficult and noticed that I pronounce the /S/ at the beginning of these words quite differently.

Hmmm...I've tried it and don't detect any difference at all in my consonants.
I'd surmise that "***" comes off more trippingly because the point of articulation of its vowel is so much closer to the point of articulation of /S/ than is the vowel of "sugar". You've got to move the tongue more to produce the latter. The extra energy involved suggests that habitually saying "sugar" rather than "***" should be part of one's exercise/weight loss regimen.
I'd suggest that if you want to avoid a vulgarity at the last instant, you substitute something like "shinbones".
Gary Williams
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SeBn O'Leathl
I saw it with a lowercase beta where there's now a B, and a less-than-or- equal-to sign where there's now a less-than sign.

"I've been that drunk myself sometimes." - Martin

I saw a lowercase a and o, respectively, with acute accents...sounds like the problem's on your end....r
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I wouldn't consider it a swear word. I'd consider it a substitute for one.

Hmmm... depends on whether you apply the term "swear word" to certain words which are thereby intrinsically* swear words, or to certain *usages, in which case a word substituted for a swear word would itself be a swear word.
Sean O'Leathlobhair wrote

I also started to say that "sugar" has the advantage ... the /S/ at the beginning of these words quite differently.

The only difference for me is rounding, I think. Can you describe your difference?

The rounding is the difference with me, too.
Are these allophones distinguished in IPA (I have not noticed it)

There'd be no need to distinguish between allophones in making a phonemic transcription. That might be why...
IPA uses superscript w to indicate rounding. A bit peculiar, that: wouldn't it be better to superscript the symbol for a rounded vowel for which one uses the appropriate mouth shape, u for example?
But do we really need to bother with such fine analysis when transcribing English? The real situation isn't really that English has many allophones of /S/; rather, it's that the speaker says the consonant while his mouth is preparing for the following vowel, a phonological process which isn't specific to /S/ or /U/.
and do any languages distinguish them?

Crystal (The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language) says that Lak distinguishes between rounded and unrounded /S/.

Richard Sabey Visit the r.p.crosswords competition website cryptic fan at hotmail.com http://www.rsabey.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/rpc /
For US friends, I think knickers can be translated as panties. Seán O'Leathlóbhair

For the record, knickers does not refer to women's panties in the U.S. Here it refers to little boys' knee-length pants...and little boys in the U.S. haven't worn them for most of a century.
The first time I was exposed to the British meaning was in the Beatles' song "I am the Walrus" where John Lennon sings "...you've been a naughty girl, you've let your knickers down". The mental picture of a girl wearing what we consider knickers is comical.

Don
For US friends, I think knickers can be translated as panties. Seán O'Leathlóbhair

For the record, knickers does not refer to women's panties in the U.S. Here it refers to little boys' knee-length ... naughty girl, you've let your knickers down". The mental picture of a girl wearing what we consider knickers is comical.

Correctamundo. Picture revered golfer Bobby Jones in panties!

M-W Online:
Main Entry: plus fours
loose sports knickers made four inches longer than ordinary knickers
What song was that (from the Music Man?) in which a boy, no sooner out of sight of his doorway, rebuttons his knickers below the knees? Trouble, right here in River City!
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