Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Dr. Word Asks: Ghoti Tacos, Anyone?

Posted By on Wed, Jan 21, 2015 at 1:30 PM

COURTESY OF SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Courtesy of Shutterstock

An article in today's Star talks about a proposition to create an International English Spelling Congress to make the way we spell words more logical and consistent. The article mentions the letter string "ough," which can be pronounced at least seven ways—as in the words "though," "through," "cough," "rough," "plough," "ought" and "borough." As an old English teacher, I know more time is spent—"wasted" would be a better word—teaching and correcting spelling than would be necessary if words were spelled something like the way they sounded.

This isn't a new idea. In the 1870s, someone came up with the word "ghoti" as an example of our ridiculous spelling system. The "gh" is pronounced as in "tough," the "o" as in "women," and the "ti" as in "nation." Put it all together and it spells "fish." (I always thought "ghoti" was a George Bernard Shaw creation. Apparently not—according to Wikipedia, anyway.)

If they were talking about this 150 years ago, I doubt if anything is going to (gonna?) change any time soon.

Word Nerd Note: In James Joyce's Finnegans Wake, he made reference to "ghoti" in typical Joycean fashion:

"Gee each owe tea eye smells fish."
Now you know.

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