snopes.com  

Go Back   snopes.com > Urban Legends > Questionable Quotes

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 27 June 2010, 08:16 PM
snopes's Avatar
snopes snopes is offline
 
Join Date: 18 February 2000
Location: California
Posts: 108,346
Goldfish Ghoti

When talk turns to the irrationality of English spelling conventions, a five-letter emblem of our language’s foolishness inevitably surfaces: ghoti. The Christian Science Monitor, reporting on the spelling-bee protesters, laid out the familiar story (while casting some doubt on its veracity): “The Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw is said to have joked that the word ‘fish’ could legitimately be spelled ‘ghoti,’ by using the ‘gh’ sound from ‘enough,’ the ‘o’ sound from ‘women’ and the ‘ti’ sound from ‘action.’ ”

Just one problem with the well-worn anecdote: there’s not a shred of evidence that Shaw, though a noted advocate for spelling reform, ever brought up ghoti. Scholars have searched high and low through Shaw’s writings and have never found him suggesting ghoti as a comical respelling of fish.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/27/ma...anguage-t.html
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 27 June 2010, 10:26 PM
ULTRAGOTHA ULTRAGOTHA is offline
 
Join Date: 06 October 2000
Location: Connecticut
Posts: 3,996
Default

But there is a lot of evidence that John Scalzi spells "Fluffy" Ghlaghghee on the same principle.

And just because they must go together--Bacon Cat in 2006.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 28 June 2010, 12:09 AM
RealityChuck's Avatar
RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
 
Join Date: 14 November 2003
Location: Schenectady, NY
Posts: 1,329
Default

Whoever came up with "ghoti" is woefully ignorant of how English words are pronounced:

1. "gh" at the beginning of a word is always pronounced as a hard g (e.g., ghost, ghastly, etc.)
2. "O" in "women" is the only case where the "o" is prounounced "i."
3. "ti" never has an "sh" sound unless followed by "on."

So whoever did write this, knew little about English pronunciation. It's picking and choosing some mistaken and piss-poor examples and pretending they're systematic.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 28 June 2010, 12:40 AM
Bonnie's Avatar
Bonnie Bonnie is offline
 
Join Date: 01 January 1970
Location: Chapel Hill, NC
Posts: 112
Reading

Quote:
Originally Posted by RealityChuck View Post
1. "gh" at the beginning of a word is always pronounced as a hard g (e.g., ghost, ghastly, etc.)
2. "O" in "women" is the only case where the "o" is prounounced "i."
3. "ti" never has an "sh" sound unless followed by "on."
Yes, Zimmer makes this point in his On Language column,

Quote:
English spelling does not actually work by stitching together parts of words in Frankensteinian fashion. Ghoti falls down for the same reason, if you stop to think about it. Do we ever represent the “f” sound as gh at the beginning of a word or the “sh” sound as ti at the end of a word? And for that matter, is the vowel of fish ever spelled with an “o” in any word other than women? English spelling might be messy, but it does follow some rules.
Quote:
Originally Posted by RealityChuck View Post
Whoever came up with "ghoti" is woefully ignorant of how English words are pronounced:

[...]

So whoever did write this, knew little about English pronunciation. It's picking and choosing some mistaken and piss-poor examples and pretending they're systematic.
Except, as Zimmer also notes,

Quote:
Robinson suggested to me that William Ollier could have come up with ghoti in a parlor game of Ellis-inspired silly spellings.
-- Bonnie
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 28 June 2010, 01:22 PM
rujasu rujasu is offline
 
Join Date: 07 May 2007
Location: Maryland
Posts: 1,707
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by RealityChuck View Post
So whoever did write this, knew little about English pronunciation. It's picking and choosing some mistaken and piss-poor examples and pretending they're systematic.
Not necessarily. Yes, "ghoti" is obviously not a valid spelling of "fish" in real English, but it could still be seen as demonstrating how bizarre some of the variations in English spelling rules are. The fact that you have to consider rules like these:

Quote:
1. "gh" at the beginning of a word is always pronounced as a hard g (e.g., ghost, ghastly, etc.)
2. "O" in "women" is the only case where the "o" is prounounced "i."
3. "ti" never has an "sh" sound unless followed by "on."
...could be seen as reasons that the English spelling conventions are needlessly complex. I don't really agree, but having taken Spanish, a language where one letter generally corresponds to one sound and only one sound, I do get it. Someone learning English could find it very confusing that "gh" is sometimes pronounced as a hard "g" (ghost), an "f" (rough), or " " (through).

Yes, "ghoti" is entirely wrong in terms of being a literally correct pronounciation, but I don't think "literally correct" was necessarily the intention of whoever came up with it.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 02 July 2010, 12:19 AM
barbrainey's Avatar
barbrainey barbrainey is offline
 
Join Date: 05 December 2003
Location: Phoenix Arizona
Posts: 646
Goldfish

When I first heard about this more than 45 years ago in school, the phonetics for "fish" were presented as "photi" not "ghoti."

The "ph" sounds like "f."

Barb
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 05 July 2010, 04:43 PM
KingDavid8 KingDavid8 is offline
 
Join Date: 19 February 2000
Location: Lansing, MI
Posts: 4,122
Default

There was a Christian punk band called Ghoti Hook. Apparently, they were inspired by this spelling thing.

David
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 06 July 2010, 12:50 PM
RealityChuck's Avatar
RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
 
Join Date: 14 November 2003
Location: Schenectady, NY
Posts: 1,329
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by rujasu View Post
The fact that you have to consider rules like these:

...could be seen as reasons that the English spelling conventions are needlessly complex.
They're needfully complex. In any case, English spelling nearly always represents exactly the way a word is pronounced at the time it entered the language. The "gh" at the end of a word is a perfectly reasonable spelling of the pronunciation those words had.

It doesn't make a lot of sense to change the spelling because people start mispronouncing words, even if that mispronunciation becomes standard. Otherwise, you'd have two different spellings for "tomato."
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 06 July 2010, 01:36 PM
SatansHobbit's Avatar
SatansHobbit SatansHobbit is offline
 
Join Date: 31 May 2006
Location: Perth, Western Australia
Posts: 3,536
Australia

English must be a ghuckong tiot of a language to learn.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 07 July 2010, 06:48 AM
Floater's Avatar
Floater Floater is offline
 
Join Date: 24 February 2000
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Posts: 6,601
Reading

Quote:
Originally Posted by RealityChuck View Post
Whoever came up with "ghoti" is woefully ignorant of how English words are pronounced:

1. "gh" at the beginning of a word is always pronounced as a hard g (e.g., ghost, ghastly, etc.)
2. "O" in "women" is the only case where the "o" is prounounced "i."
3. "ti" never has an "sh" sound unless followed by "on."

So whoever did write this, knew little about English pronunciation. It's picking and choosing some mistaken and piss-poor examples and pretending they're systematic.
You don't think whoever thought this out was making a ... whatsitcalled ... joke using ridiculous examples?
Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On

Forum Jump


All times are GMT. The time now is 10:40 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.