- ⟨gh⟩, pronounced /f/ as in tough /tʌf/;
- ⟨o⟩, pronounced /ɪ/ as in women /ˈwɪmɪn/; and
- ⟨ti⟩, pronounced /ʃ/ as in nation /ˈneɪʃən/.
There are however, problems with this interpretation:
- Firstly, the digraph ⟨gh⟩ is only pronounced /f/ as a syllable coda as part of ⟨ough⟩ and ⟨augh⟩, and never at the syllable onset.
- ⟨o⟩ represents /ɪ/ only in women.
- ⟨ti⟩ is not a recognised English digraph; the /ʃ/ sound is actually only represented by t, which is mutated from /t/ to /ʃ/ before suffixation with a suffix beginning with the diphthong /ɪə/, which often is reduced to simply /ə/, such as -ia, -ion, -ian, -ious -ient, -iate. So, not only does ti not represent this spelling, it's also never found at the end of a word.
Ghoti is not the only "ghoti spelling" - "ghoughpteighbteau tchoghs" is also given as a creative way of spelling "potato chips".
As an element of the argument for spelling reform, its use is somewhat self-defeating. The effect hinges on the audience being surprised that ghoti would be pronounced "fish", which presupposes that they in fact have notions of the typical pronunciation of the orthography involved. An average English speaker who encountered this word would expect it to be pronounced /ˈɡoʊti/ ("goaty"), or similarly, and it is from precisely this reliability that the argument for unreliability gets its force.