Fwd: Re: Ghoti -- oops!

Dennis R. Preston preston at MSU.EDU
Wed Dec 13 12:45:37 UTC 2006

I always preferred "horses' doovers" (leaving the hearer to imagine
what a "doover" might be) to "whore's d'ovaries." I take all of these
to be intentional mispronunciations to mock the unsophisticated,
apparently a Colorado belief about Nebraskans, a pairing I didn't
know about.


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>From: Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
>Subject:      Re: Ghoti -- oops!
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>Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
>Subject:      Re: Ghoti -- oops!
>At 11:26 PM -0500 12/12/06, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
>>>Shoulda noticed Larry's  post before spouting off. I do think Shaw used it
>>>even if he wasn't its inventor.
>>Many people have searched high and low in Shaw's works for "ghoti" and
>>have come up empty. Had it appeared in print, it would most likely
>>have showed up in _George Bernard Shaw on Language_ (New York:
>>Philosophical Library, 1963), edited by Abraham Tauber, an anthology
>>of items written by Shaw about language and language reform (including
>>excerpts from his will).  But the only mention of it is in Tauber's
>>introduction (p. xvii):
>>"Shaw is frequently associated with his innovation of the story of a
>>'fish' -- spelled 'ghoti' -- the 'gh' of laugh, the 'o' of women, and
>>the 'ti' of nation -- the transliteration 'ghoti' representing the
>>sounds of the word 'fish,' as well as the irrational and inconsistent
>>nature of English spelling."
>>As I mentioned in my other post, we do have a firm attribution to
>>Daniel Jones from 1943, and he may have been confused in the popular
>>imagination (by Mario Pei and others) with Shaw.
>Let's see..."J" as in "Beijing" [hyperforeignism-style], "o" as in
>"dog", "n" as in "column", "e" as in "make", "s" as in "hors
>d'oeuvres"*--I can see why Pei might have thought Jones was Shaw.
>*But not when pronounced as a student reports it is in "backwoods
>Nebraska" according to a Coloradan friend of his, viz. "whore's
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

It should be the chief aim of a university professor to exhibit
himself in his own true character - that is, as an ignorant man [sic]
thinking, actively utilizing his small share of knowledge. Alfred
North Whitehead

There are many different religions in this world, but if you look at
them carefully, you'll see that they all have one thing in common:
They were invented by a giant, superintelligent slug named Dennis.
Homer Simpson

Dennis R. Preston
University Distinguished Professor
Department of English
15-C Morrill Hall
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824-1036
Phone: (517) 353-4736
Fax: (517) 353-3755
preston at msu.edu

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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