In my initial post I may have not made my issue clear enough, so...

Say out loud the sentence, "There are three ways to spell the word two."

Obviously there is only one way to spell that specific word, but it has several homophones. When writing the sentence, what spelling would you replace TWO with? I know it can be rephrased to make it easy, but I want the spelling for this specific example.

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    It's best practice to edit former questions with clarifications rather than ask new ones which aim for the same goal. Anyway, as I commented on your original question: when you are writing about speech sounds, you use a phonetic transcription (the IPA currently being the most popular choice), specifically because using the lexemes proper creates this kind of ambiguity (or conundrum, as you say). The proper, correct answer to your question is what I said the first time: "There are three ways to spell the word /tu/". – Dan Bron Oct 2 '15 at 14:29
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    Ah, but a philosophical question -- if you use /tu/, should it really be the word /tu/? You're counting ways of spelling but not words; they're different lexemes, after all. – John Lawler Oct 2 '15 at 14:49
  • @JohnLawler Yeah, on his original question, basically everyone who engaged with it told him his trouble is self-created: he wants to say the but refer to three distinct things. That his desideratum is paradoxical, I cannot fix for him. :) – Dan Bron Oct 2 '15 at 15:02
  • @JohnLawler: So, should the OP word the sentences as follows - Say out loud the sentence, "There are three ways to spell the homophone /tu/"? – rhetorician Oct 2 '15 at 15:09
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    @rhetorician: There are at least three English words pronounced /tu/; they are spelled differently, in at least three ways. – John Lawler Oct 2 '15 at 17:13

Answer is "2". This way you avoid all three ways.

  • .... except "2" isn't a word. – Dan Bron Oct 2 '15 at 18:23
  • Yes. But if we read the question we could find that such point was not specified :) – Anonymous Oct 2 '15 at 18:31
  • It certainly was: he wants to use the phrase "there are three ways to spell the word X", and he explicitly said he does not want to re-arrange the sentence in any way. – Dan Bron Oct 2 '15 at 18:33
  • Yes, it certanly was, but it was in the quotation. And this quotation means some play of sense with writing :) – Anonymous Oct 2 '15 at 18:44
  • No, that is not what quotation means: quotation means you are mentioning something, not using it, and not playing with it. You are mentioning something so you can talk about it; but that doesn't grant some magical license to mischaracterize it. If I say "the cat 'Big Bird' has very long whiskers", the quotes don't give me the right to call a bird a cat. – Dan Bron Oct 2 '15 at 18:50

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