ghoti = fish

Matthew Gordon gordonmj at MISSOURI.EDU
Tue Apr 22 21:10:56 UTC 2008

I don't keep up with the antedating sport that many on this list participate
in, so, please forgive me if this is not news. I checked the ADS-L archives
about the "joke" of respelling 'fish' as <ghoti> and found posts tracing
this back to the 1930s or so. It is popularly attributed to G. B. Shaw but
the consensus seems to be that he didn't come up with it on his own.

Anyway my university has a trial subscription to the British Periodicals
database and for fun I searched on 'ghoti.' I came up with an article from
an 1874 issue of St. James Magazine that recounts the story of ghoti. The
quote begins "My son William has hit upon a new method of spelling Fish. As
thus: - G.h.o.t.i., Ghoti, fish...." and continues on to explain the
orthographic connections.

I'm happy to provide further details if anyone is interested.

-Matt Gordon

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list