Ghoti – the fishy classic of English pronunciation
If gives me considerable shame and delight at the same time to have only recently learned about ghoti. If that word looks fishy to you, read on. The word ghoti was constructed by Alexander J. Ellis in 1845 [see here] to highlight what is wrong with English pronunciation. It is still often invoked to argue in favour of a reform of the language. To understand why, we have to consider its three parts gh, o and ti:
- gh is pronounced as [f], as in tough (listen here)
- o is pronounced as [ɪ], as in women (listen here)
- ti is pronounced as [ʃ], as in nation (listen here)
Put it all together and you end up with [fɪʃ], which is exactly the phonetic spelling of fish (listen here). Amazing, isn’t it?