Ghoti is one of those linguistic things that is just kind of fun. Unless you’ve seen it before, you are probably pronouncing that word “g-ah-ti.” The real pronunciation is “fish” as in “all the fish in the deep blue sea.” I’ll show you how in a minute, but first let’s talk about why this term even came into existence.
Spelling in the English Language is just as screwed up as our word history. One of the great beauties and power of the English language is that it is really a mess of dozens of language influences. Those influences didn’t affect just our speech, but they affected our spelling as well. Many languages have one sound and one sound only corresponding to a letter or letter combination. For example, the Spanish “a” when seen alone is always pretty much the exact same sound. There are also few if any silent letters. English, on the other hand, makes all sorts of sounds with each letter and has silent letters all over the place. As an example, the term “ghoti” was created to showcase just how crazy our language is.
As I’ve already mentioned, ghoti is really pronounced “fish.” Here’s how:
The “gh” is the same “gh” sound you find in words like “enough, tough, trough.”
The “o” is the same “o” sound you find in the word “women.”
The “ti” is the same “ti” sound you find in words like “information, destination, and reflection.”
And there you have it. When the sounds are all thrown together, they read “fish,” not “g-ah-ti.”
By the way, our unusual history of linguistic development is one of the biggest reasons our spelling is so difficult. Numerous attempts to simplify our spelling have all failed, but I doubt they will cease anytime in the near future. On another note, our linguistic history is another reason that English is such a fantastic language at describing and discussing terms. We have so many words that are so similar to each other that we have a wide-reaching scope of possibilities.