Earliest Reference to "Ghoti"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Wed Dec 13 13:27:21 UTC 2006

If it's of any interest to anybody, my seventh-grade English teacher, Mr. Walsh, attributed "ghoti" to Shaw in 1959 or '60.

  Shaw's pointy beard may have helped the attribution along- preconsciously, of course.


Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU> wrote:
  ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Benjamin Zimmer
Subject: Re: Earliest Reference to "Ghoti"

On 12/12/06, Laurence Horn wrote:
> I remember hearing a no doubt ghoti-y tale that the observation was
> due to G. B. Shaw. A little searching indicates that it is a
> widespread canard (esp. good on toast). See e.g.
> http://alt-usage-english.org/excerpts/fxwhat04.html
> (In this piece, Jim Scobbie doesn't attempt to date the "ghoti" fish-tale.)

For further on this, see my alt.usage.english/sci.lang post from June 2004:


Executive summary: "ghoti" shows up unattributed in 1938 (1937 thanks
to Fred's new cite), then directly attributed to Daniel Jones in 1943,
then vaguely attributed to G.B. Shaw in 1946 by the canard-alicious
Mario Pei (who perhaps was getting Jones and Shaw confused).

--Ben Zimmer

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

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