Ghoti

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For people of western Bengal, see Ghotis.

Ghoti is a constructed word used to illustrate irregularities in English spelling. It is a respelling of the word fish: i.e., it is supposed to be pronounced /ˈfɪʃ/. It comprises these phonemes:

  • gh, pronounced /f/ as in tough /tʌf/;
  • o, pronounced /ɪ/ as in women /ˈwɪmɪn/; and
  • ti, pronounced /ʃ/ as in nation /ˈneɪʃən/.

An early known published reference is in 1874, citing an 1855 letter that credits ghoti to one William Ollier Jr (born 1824).[1] Ghoti is often cited to support the English spelling reform, and is often attributed to George Bernard Shaw,[2] a supporter of this cause. However, the word does not appear in Shaw's writings,[1] and a biography of Shaw attributes it instead to an anonymous spelling reformer.[3] Similar constructed words exist that demonstrate English idiosyncrasies,[4] but ghoti is the most widely recognized. Linguists have pointed out that the location of the letters in the constructed word is inconsistent with how those letters would be pronounced in those placements, and that the expected pronunciation in English would be "goaty".[4] For instance, the letters "gh" cannot be pronounced /f/ at the beginning of a syllable, and the letters "ti" cannot be pronounced /ʃ/ at the end of a syllable.

Silent ghoti[edit]

Using the same method and reinforcing the original point, ghoti can be a silent word, where:

  • gh as in though (/ðoʊ/) ;
  • o as in people (/'piːpl/) ;
  • t as in ballet (/'bæleɪ/) ;
  • i as in business (/'bɪznəs/)

Ghoughpteighbteau[edit]

Ghoughpteighbteau is a similarly constructed word, used for illustration of irregularities in spelling.[4][5] It is a respelling of the word potato, and like potato is pronounced /pˈtt/. It has:

  • gh, pronounced /p/ as in hiccough /ˈhɪkʌp/;
  • ough, pronounced /oʊ/ as in though /ðoʊ/;
  • pt, pronounced /t/ as in ptomaine /ˈtoʊmeɪn/;
  • eigh, pronounced /eɪ/ as in neigh /neɪ/;
  • bt, pronounced /t/ as in debt /dɛt/;
  • eau, pronounced /oʊ/ as in bureau /ˈbjʊəroʊ/.

A slight variation is the word Ghoughphtheightteeau, where:

  • phth, pronounced /t/ as in phthisis /ˈtaɪsɪs/;
  • tte, pronounced /t/ as in gazette /ɡəzɛt/.

Notable usage[edit]

  • In Finnegans Wake, James Joyce alludes to ghoti: "Gee each owe tea eye smells fish." (p. 299)
  • In the constructed language of Klingon, ghotI’ is the proper word for "fish".[6]
  • In the episode of Batman "An Egg Grows in Gotham", Egghead uses Ghoti Œuf as the name for his caviar business, and Batman explains the reference to Robin.[7]
  • Ghoti Hook is a 1990s Christian punk band.
  • Ghoti is used to test speech synthesizers.[8] The Speech! allophone-based speech synthesiser ROM for the BBC Micro was tweaked to pronounce ghoti as fish.[9] Examination of the ROM's code reveals the string GHOTI used to identify the special case.
  • In the online game Neopets, an aquatic petpet, which is distinctly fish-like in appearance, is called Ghoti.[10]
  • The speech synthesizer in version 10.6 (Snow Leopard) of Mac OS X by default pronounces "ghoti" as "fish".[11]
  • In the computer game Minecraft, a "splash text" (random sentence) is displayed on the title screen. One of these, "Ghoughpteighbteau tchoghs!" is displayed occasionally; this is actually pronounced "potato chips" using the ghoti principle.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Benjamin Zimmer. "Ghoti before Shaw". Language Log.  Cites S. R. Townshend Mayer, “Leigh Hunt and Charles Ollier”, St. James’s Magazine, October 1874, page 406 (itself citing an 1855 letter from Ollier to Hunt).
  2. ^ Holroyd, Michael, Bernard Shaw: Volume III: 1918–1950: The Lure of Fantasy, Random House, 1994, ISBN 0-517-13035-1
  3. ^ See Jim Scobbie's article at alt-usage-english.org, citing Holroyd, page 501
  4. ^ a b c Benjamin Zimmer. "Ghoti". The New York Times. 
  5. ^ http://alt-usage-english.org/excerpts/fxwhat04.html
  6. ^ Klingon Language Institute
  7. ^ Teleplay by Stanley Ralph Ross, Story by Ed Self (19 October 1966). "An Egg Grows in Gotham". Batman. Season 2. Episode 13. Event occurs at 13 minutes. ABC. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_de5St_97M#t=3m06s. Retrieved 27 March 2011.
  8. ^ Kevelson, Morton (1986-01). "Speech Synthesizers for the Commodore Computers / Part II". Ahoy!. p. 32. Retrieved 2 July 2014. 
  9. ^ "Re: Spelling Bees" Discussion of speech synthesis programs
  10. ^ http://www.neopets.com/search.phtml?selected_type=object&string=Ghoti
  11. ^ http://imajenthat.blogspot.com/2010/11/like-ghoti-out-of-water.html

External links[edit]