Earliest Reference to "Ghoti"

Towse my.cache at GMAIL.COM
Wed Dec 13 22:45:09 UTC 2006

On 12/13/06, Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at babel.ling.upenn.edu> wrote:
> 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.

Lest we forget. Not an antedating, but a reference that "ghoti" was
known prior to 1939, well-enough known to warrant a footnote in
Finnegan's Wake, Episode 10. Joyce worked how many years on Finnegan's

When did he write the footnote?


[footnote 3] "Pure chingchong idiotism with any way words all in one
soluble. Gee each owe tea eye smells fish. That's U."


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