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Part of speech for ghoti?[edit]

In the entry I have characterized "ghoti" as a noun, but I admit that there are two ways of looking at the POS for this term:

  1. If "ghoti" is taken as a fanciful alternate spelling for "fish", then it should indeed be a noun.
  2. If "ghoti" is a taken as a fanciful undefined term which is pronounced like "fish" but which does not necessarily have the same meaning as "fish," then it does not appear to be possible to assign a POS.

Either way the whole business is fanciful, so I flipped a coin and went with number 1. -- WikiPedant 19:08, 6 June 2007 (UTC)

What about non-noun? I would prefer the pronunciation request to be removed. How can there be a pronunciation for a word that doesn't really exist? SemperBlotto 19:11, 6 June 2007 (UTC)

I took the pronunciation request as a bit of a clever gag or maybe a riddle. The natural thing to do is to look at this word and say something like "goat-ee," which is exactly what I subvocalize (in my mind's ear) whenever I see this word in print. But the whole point is that it's "fish," raising the (self-contradictory) oral question, "Is goat-ee pronounced fish?" A veritable zen koan. -- WikiPedant 19:23, 6 June 2007 (UTC)
I did not mean for the {{rfap}} to be in any way humorous. I meant for it to provide the indicated pronunciation, which is not terribly clear since it is written in IPA (which the broad majority of our readers do not comprehend.)
Looking now at it, is the "spelling pronunciation" (e.g. goatee) also valid?
--Connel MacKenzie 22:29, 14 June 2007 (UTC)

Does not belong here[edit]

This is not a real word; even the citation is using it in quotation marks and not in any realistic context. How can its inclusion in a dictionary be justified?! 16:42, 15 July 2008 (UTC)

It is a widely cited constructed word, and one someone might very well look up in a dictionary to try to figure out what is going on. So we have an entry that says that clearly. Robert Ullmann 16:48, 15 July 2008 (UTC)

Should a "constructed word" with no real usage be listed under "English" when it's not a part of that language? 16:49, 15 July 2008 (UTC)

But it is a real word, with widespread and long-term usage. It is English in the sense that it is used to illustrate the sillyness of the English language.--Dmol 17:52, 15 July 2008 (UTC)


All the citations look like mentions to me. Any thoughts? --Μετάknowledgediscuss/deeds 05:19, 5 August 2012 (UTC)

Indeed, I've yet to find a genuine use. I could almost attest it from a footnote in Finnegans Wake, a CFIably well-known work:
However, he spells out a mention of "ghoti" rather than writing ghoti. ~ Röbin Liönheart (talk) 05:50, 5 August 2012 (UTC)
For what it's worth, I think I can refute almost all of the citations:
  • 1874: This one contains the phrase "ghoti is fish", but I think the italics make it clear that this is a mention, not a use.
  • 1938: Mention only.
  • 1946: Mention only.
  • 1949: Mention only.
  • 1953: This one says "Ghoti. That spells fish [...]". I think this one is clearly a mention.
  • 1959: Mention only.
  • 1962: Mention only.
  • 1965: Mention only.
  • 1966: This one is a little tricky. "Ghoti Oeufs Caviar Company" is used as the name of a fictional company. This is certainly a use rather than a mention. However, neither of the characters says the word "ghoti" in order to convey the meaning "fish"; they only use it when using the name of the company, and when discussing the word itself. One could argue that the name of the company itself is a genuine use of the word "ghoti", but I would argue that it is not. The meaningful part of the company name is the phrase "Caviar Company", and the phrase "Ghoti Oeufs" serves no purpose besides being a clever phrase which distinguishes this caviar company from other caviar companies.
  • 1970: Mention only.
  • 1973: Mention only.
  • 1978: Mention only.
  • 1983: Another tricky one. Again, this would count as a use rather than a mention. I think the fact that this is an article title is significant, however. The author is not saying that "not all red herrings are ghoti"; this is just a meaningless, humorous phrase related to the concept of nonstandard spellings.
  • 1996: Mention only.
  • 2004: Mention only.
  • 2006: I would count this as a mention. The author isn't genuinely asking if you've been eating enough ghoti lately; they're simply pointing out the nonstandard spelling "ghoti" by using it in a sentence.
  • 2007: Mention only.
  • 2009, Singh: I suppose this is a genuine use, but this is strange poetry. Make of that what you will.
  • 2009, Walls: Pretty much the same deal as the 1966 citation.
  • 2010: Mention only.
So you could argue that there are as many as five genuine uses, but not a single one is in a normal sentence. Maybe it would make sense to remove all of the citations besides these five. —Tanner Swett (talk) 02:22, 4 February 2016 (UTC)


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It's nice appendix material, somewhere, but I doubt it's ever been used as opposed to mentioned. I dug through some of google books:ghoti, where I found some unrelated proper noun use, and [1] introduces a section on the spelling by saying "Catching a ghoti?"; I don't really count that myself. There's apparently a band named Ghoti Hook, The Philosophy {Feellusthofee} of Pimping claims ghoti is a word for the female sexual organs. Human growth and development through the lifespan"Consider some of the complexities of the English language that we, as adults, understand completely: We drive on a parkway and park on a driveway. Or think of the different sounds of letters: We eat ghoti quite frequently, (gh as in tough, o as..." Does any of this count as actual use? Maybe somewhere in the depths of Usenet, some proper, if smartass, use can be found.

(The snippet for [2] says "Thus due to dialectic differences two distinct categories emerged amongst the Bengalis bangal and ghoti. ... Ghoti. The mention of this word is unavoidable in this context since the residents of West Bengal are referred to as ghoti, a distinction ..."; interesting if citable. [3] is a visible mention in a vocabulary list. [4] apparently uses Ghoti in this sense.)

(Webster's New World English Grammar Handbook is a complete side diversion, but I'd like to complain that they claim that phonetically is not phonetic since they use a "ph"... which is one perfectly clear way to write /f/ in English, and attributes ghoti to a child, as if a child could or would come up with that monstrosity.)--Prosfilaes (talk) 23:40, 4 August 2012 (UTC)

Looks citable. I personally count the "Catching a ghoti?" as a use, but if we disagree on that point, then it becomes a lot harder (really, we're hanging on to the cliff of usage, dangerously close to the chasm of mention). --Μετάknowledgediscuss/deeds 23:52, 4 August 2012 (UTC)
Let's see three uses as cites. It's not something I'm really interested in fighting over, but I would like to see it pass three cites that someone can honestly claim are uses. I'd be more willing to argue that Ghoti Hook is a use; it's certainly the only case where someone might be wondering what it means.--Prosfilaes (talk) 07:12, 5 August 2012 (UTC)
Citations:ghoti created and populated. If we interpret "use" very loosely, 1949 (title), 1966, 1983 (title), 2006, and 2009 might qualify. ~ Röbin Liönheart (talk) 02:33, 6 August 2012 (UTC)
I was the person on Talk:ghoti who suggested this was not a true English word (in 2008, before I had a user account). I still haven't seen convincing citations. Then again, we seem to keep metasyntactic variables like xyzzy and foo... Equinox 23:53, 4 August 2012 (UTC)
Taking everything at face value, it's not a word in its own right- it's an alternate spelling of fish. I suppose one could make it an {{alternate spelling of}} entry with the explanation in a usage note. Chuck Entz (talk) 03:58, 5 August 2012 (UTC)
Ghoti would be capitalized, since it's an ethnonym (see w:Ghoti people). As for the grammar handbook: "phonetically" isn't spelled phonetically anyway because the "a" is silent, and in the first known use of "ghoti" (from 1855), the writer attributes it to his son, William- so blaming children for this goes back a century and a half more.
This is an unusual case, as the word was constructed purely to show how difficult English can be. For that reason, it is always going to be mentioned or described, rather than used in everyday writing. It's not really an alternative spelling as it is never used as a spelling for fish. But on the strength of it, I'd like it to stay. (It was my original contribution). There's no slippery slope as I believe this is the only example of this type of thing that exists.--Dmol (talk) 04:48, 5 August 2012 (UTC)
I don't see it any different from the phobias or unused special plurals of animals. I do see as different from stuff like xyzzy, because we have sentences for the latter like "Suppose stock xyzzy is selling at $100.00 on January 1, 2002." There's always a bit of a slippery slope with exceptions; they make it easier to justify later things that don't actually have uses.--Prosfilaes (talk) 07:12, 5 August 2012 (UTC)
(The word being discussed shouldn't be capitalized because it doesn't refer to any ethnic group.) Would it be possible to redirect to Wikipedia? --BB12 (talk) 07:34, 5 August 2012 (UTC)
Yes, see ozay. — Ungoliant (Falai) 16:24, 5 August 2012 (UTC)
From what Ive heard Ghoti Hook is now just pronouncing its name as "goatee hook" because they got tired of telling people that it was Fish Hook. I agree it's not an alternative spelling for fish, I think it should be kept in some form or another though since people are going to be looking for it. Do we have a or similar counter here? Soap (talk) 22:28, 6 August 2012 (UTC)


The 1966 and 1983 citations are good. The 2009 citation is probably good. None of the others are. Still, that's three, so I'd say this passes, but is very rarely used. - -sche (discuss) 08:05, 6 October 2012 (UTC)
Passed. - -sche (discuss) 02:37, 12 October 2012 (UTC)