From Teflpedia
A ghoti.
ghoti and ghoughpteighbteau tchoghs.

Ghoti (/fɪʃ/) is an oft-cited parody of the irregular spelling of English [1] which asserts that "ghoti" could be the spelling for "fish" according to the following spelling rules:

  • 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, but never at the beginning of a syllable. Secondly, "ti" is not a recognised English digraph; the /ʃ/ sound is actually only represented by t, which can only be pronounced /ʃ/ as part of a -ti- suffix before the diphthong /ɪə/, which may be reduced to simply /ə/, such as -ia, -ion, -ian, -ious -ient, -iate, i.e. never at the end of a word.

This is often erroneously attributed to George Bernard Shaw[2]

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.


  2. Zimmer, Ben, "Ghoti" before Shaw. Retrieved 25th September 2012.<