Earliest Evidence for "Ghoti"

Fred Shapiro fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Sun Feb 1 16:08:30 UTC 2004

"Ghoti" as a spelling of "fish" is usually attributed to G. B. Shaw.
However, the earliest examples I have seen do not mention Shaw's name, and
biographies of Shaw do not give any hard evidence of his having used this.
The earliest record of the "ghoti" spelling is in Finnegan's Wake (1941),
although Joyce elaborates the g-h-o-t-i there, I believe, without actually
using "ghoti" per se.

Anyway, here is what I believe is the earliest evidence anyone has ever

1938 _Christian Science Monitor_ 27 Aug. 17 (ProQuest)  A foreigner who
insisted that "fish" should be spelled "ghoti" explained it in this
fashion: "Gh" is pronounced as in "rough," the "o" as in "women," and the
"ti" as in "nation" -- so maybe he's right.

Fred Shapiro

Fred R. Shapiro                             Editor
Associate Librarian for Collections and     YALE DICTIONARY OF QUOTATIONS
  Access and Lecturer in Legal Research     Yale University Press,
Yale Law School                             forthcoming
e-mail: fred.shapiro at yale.edu               http://quotationdictionary.com

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