Teach a Man to Ghoti

The English language is extremely difficult to learn. Many of us who have been speaking it for decades still get tripped up trying to pronounce a word we haven’t seen before. And that is a situation that is more likely to happen than not. The Oxford English Dictionary lists over 600,000 definitions and the list keep growing.

Besides having a ton of homonyms (words that sound alike such as to, two, and too) which have totally different meanings, there are many words that are spelled the same, but have different meanings based on how they are pronounced. A good example is found in the following sentence: “Farmers work their fields to produce produce.”

I apologize for not being able to credit the person who played with the English language’s nuances to produce the word in the title of this post. I learned about this word many years ago and have been unable to locate the source.

Now that I’ve given you all these hints, you should be able to recognize the word. Ghoti.

Do you need more hints? OK. Let’s begin with the first two letters. The ‘gh’ combination has the same sound as the ‘gh’ in the word ‘enough’.

Still need more help? The ‘o’ has the same sound as the ‘o’ in the word ‘women’.

Surely you’ve figured it out by now.

Just in case, the ‘ti’ combination at the end has the same sound as the ‘ti’ in the word ‘nation’.

So, it is safe to say, “Give a man a ghoti and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach the man to ghoti and you’ll feed him for life.”


5 Responses to Teach a Man to Ghoti

  1. Brian Barker says:

    Not always safe to eat ghoti however, because the bones always yet stuck in the throat.

    Or should I use “frote” as modern English spelling!

    Perhaps there is an argument for Esperanto after all.

  2. Robin Carson says:

    The source of that amazing spelling is George Bernard Shaw, well known for his plays. He did much to try to reform English spelling. He did not come close to succeeding, of course.

  3. jimsjourney says:

    Old George B.S. had lots to say. Thank you Robin for pointing us in the right direction.

  4. Robin Carson says:

    Shaw actually appealed for a new and more logical English alphabet, and left money for its development–quite a bit of it, actually, from royalties from such plays as _Pygmalion_, which was the seed for _My Fair Lady_. The alphabet was published about a dozen years after Shaw’s death, and was actually used in England in the late ’60s and early ’70s to teach reading. (There’s a good discussion of the alphabet at http://www.spellingsociety.org/journals/j23/shawread.php)

    Of course, language does not respond well to the imposition of structure upon it, so the Shavian alphabet is now a curiosity.

  5. Jim Leeds says:


    You are a fount of information regarding Shaw. Thank you for sharing it.


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