Tough Lotion Women

by

Being a teacher of English in a foreign country means that, when meeting colleagues, strong opinions about the right or wrong way to teach come up in conversation. Generally I am willing to see strength in several approaches; however, I too have a few hard and fast points.

Anyhow, a topic that comes up is phonics. This may launch further debates about whether reading skill is important or if we should only be teaching conversation, but the reactions to phonics are strong. Some people latch on and others adamantly reject. One of the points against is that English spelling is a mish-mash of several languages and spellings left over from previous centuries. To prove the point someone may ask you how to read this:

ghoti

Naturally, the ‘gh’ should be pronounced like ‘f’, as it would be in rough or tough. Clearly not as it would be in dough, nor as in ghost.

Of course, the ‘ti’ should be pronounced like ‘sh’, as it would be in lotion or motion. Nobody would be silly enough to pronounce it as in time, nor as in tip.

That leaves us with the ‘o’ in the middle. Should it be like the vowel in hot; maybe, as in tote; perhaps, the same as woman. Nay, lets go with the ‘i’ in women. So ‘ghoti’ should be read like:

fish

It is quite amusing (read, frustrating) how many sounds can be applied to the same letters in different words. Was it Hemingway who repeatedly wrote letters to newspaper editors pushing for true phonetic spelling in English words? I like the concept; however, there would be a certain loss of etymological connection in the process. On the positive side, it could really help seal English as the Lingua Franca.

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