James A. Landau JJJRLandau at NETSCAPE.COM
Thu Dec 21 16:08:24 UTC 2006

I would like to point out that "ghoti = fish" is two-thirds correct and one-third unfair.  Yes, "gh" for /f/ in "laugh", "cough" etc. is, well, enuff is enuff, and "o" as /I/ in "women" is gender-neutral chauvinist pork.

However, "ti" for /sh/ in any -tion word is quite acceptable.

Why?  Because it is consistent and predictable.  Anybody reading English text knows that the combination "tion" is pronounced /sh at n/ (or in some cases, in words such as "convention", as /tsh at n/).  This is as solid and unvarying a rule as that "kn" at the beginning of a word is pronounced /n/.  The only exception I can think of is a technical term from chemistry "cation", pronounced /'kat eye @n/ or /'kat eye ahn/.  (My high-school chemistry teacher claimed that one of his lab assistants called cations /'kei sh at ns/ and anions /'an y at ns/.)

Actually /sh at n/ for "tion" is a subset of a more general rule in English, that when followed by certain sounds (sorry, I'm a total amateur, I can't give you a list) "t" is pronounced /tsh/ and "d" is /dzh/, e.g. "did you try" is pronounced either /dId yoo tshrai/ or /dIdzh @ tshrai/.  Similarly, "Jeet?  No, Jew?"  This phonetic process has been mentioned quite a few times on ADS-L since I joined it but has not, to the best of my recollection, been discussed in detail.  Anyone interested in explaining it in detail?

A man from Toronto (Anglophone mother, Francophone father) told me that a lot of people in Toronto pronounce the name of the city as /tshrahn oh/, so much so that some people have trouble looking up things in the phone book because they think the spelling is "Tronto" or "Trono".

I once saw a similar gag to "ghoti", which I cannot recall except that it had three phonemes, one of which was /t/ spelled "phth" as in "phthisic".  Does anyone know it?

Sorry for the mixture of IPA and vulgar ("Falsespel"?) but I hope I got my meaning "thru".

   - Jim Landau

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