Sunday, August 14, 2022

A fine kettle of ghoti

Reader Tasker Dunham in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England and I exchanged a few words about ghoti in the previous post's comment section. I would like now to say that I was incorrect in telling him that it was George Bernard Shaw who brought it to the world's attention. Further reading on my part has revealed that ghoti pre-dated Mr. Shaw's career by a few decades, not that it matters in the least but I do try to keep my errors on a short leash as well as few and far between.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, the word 'ghoti' is merely an alternate spelling of the word 'fish'. Yes, it is, and I'll prove it. Say the 'gh' sound from enough, the 'o' from women, and the 'ti' fron nation, put them all together, and voila!, you have fish!

Next subject.

Have you ever noticed how many different ways in English the syllable 'ough' can be pronounced? By my count, there are eight:

  • uff (enough rough, tough, slough)
  • ooh (through)
  • oh (though, dough)
  • ow (bough, plough, drought)
  • aw (thought, bought, ought, wrought)
  • awf (cough)
  • ock (lough)
  • up (hiccough)

As I may have said somewhere recently, it's a wonder anyone who speaks English can spell anything correctly. Let me add a corollary to that. It's a wonder anyone who reads English can pronounce anything correctly.

It is, indeed, a fine kettle of ghoti.


  1. English is a very tricky language

    1. kylie, tricky is a kind way of putting it. It's almost insurmountable to adult learners of English; it borders on diabolical! Maybe I went a bridge too far there.

  2. Ha! But I don't live in Shegheeld. Nearer Huddersgheeld.

  3. Cough is pronounced Kof not Cawf. Cawf is used where I live by people who speak with broad Norfolk accents and I would never have dared utter it in front of my mother.

  4. Rachel, it's good to hear from you! I didn't know until receiving your comment that millions of people in America speak with a broad Norfolk accent. I understand the of/awf difference but not the K/C. Your comment reminded me of a time I misspelled a person's last name by ending it in 'y' instead of 'i'. The person wrote me back that I had changed him from a Polish Catholic into a Russian Jew. I understood how I changed him from Polish to Russian, but couldn't figure out how I had changed him from Catholic to Jewish. Same puzzle with your K and C.

  5. I could just as easily have used a c for cof but for some reason I used a k, really nothing more than trying to be sure that you understood the sound and when I Googled how to describe the sound the site I hit upon used a k. I am pleased you are pleased to hear from me.


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