Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Ghoti

If your native language is American English, you might think it is a fairly easy language to learn. Remember, however, that you’ve had a lifetime to learn the nuances. But try to find logic in some of our language and you might understand why it is so difficult for immigrants to learn it.

Here are a few examples, starting with one inspired by my early morning hunger pains today.

Break fast and breakfast. I believe the terms are related, but the words with identical spellings have different pronunciations. When you eat for the first time after fasting for awhile, you break your fast. Break is pronounced like brayk, with a long a, and the a in fast rhymes with ass. But the 1st meal of the day, when you break the fast of not eating since dinner last night, is pronounced breck, rhyming with wreck, and fast said more like fust … shouldn’t it be spelled breckfust?

Here’s a threesome: Signature, nature and natural. In signature, the nature part is pronounced nah-tur. Actually the t is said like ch ... sig-nah-chur. Nature, referring to the great outdoors, is said with a long a, like nay-chur. Natural, which is related to nature, is pronounced with the na part rhyming with bat … and again the t said more like chnatch-u-ral (the ral sort of like ruhl). Easy, right?

National is another one that defies logic. Na rhyming with bat, tion said like shun, al said like uhl.

Laugh – the gh is like an f and the u is very quiet.

Women – ok, that should be pronounced woh-men but the o part rhymes with sinwimen.

Nation – there’s that ti sounding like sh again and a long a.

Which leads me to the title of this post … ghoti. The gh in laugh, the o in women and the ti in nation. Think about that next time you eat fish.

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