Earliest Reference to "Ghoti"

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Wed Dec 13 19:19:01 UTC 2006

On 12/13/06, Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at babel.ling.upenn.edu> wrote:
> CSM has "ti" as in "nation" -- also note the reference to a
> "foreigner" -- which might bring it in line with that later cite about
> the "stage-Frenchmen" (i.e., it was intended to satirize the
> difficulties of foreigners learning irrational English spelling).
>         In Lighter Vein
>         Christian Science Monitor, Aug 27, 1938, p. 17
>         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.

Further evidence that it was originally foreigner humor:

         Oakland Tribune, May 11, 1938, p. 28/3
         A visitor from Eastern Europe has been making merry
         with English spelling. One of his suggestions is that
         "fish" ought to be spelled "ghoti." He argues that the
         "gh" is pronounced as in "rough," the o" as in "women,"
         and the "ti" as in "nation." So obviously "ghoti" spells
         "fish." --Exchange.

--Ben Zimmer

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

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