TOEFL – How to pronounce GHOTI?

Here’s part 3 of my original post – each of the posts made me revisit and discover more ‘silly nothings’ about English! 🙂


Thanks to all those who stopped by to comment, ask a question, give an opinion or even merely smile at what was being discussed! That’s exactly what I was hoping for.

I have always been in love with Languages – natural languages! I speak 5 languages every day – English, Tamil, Telugu, Hindi and Bengali. I have a decent familiarity with Sanskrit also!

In some sense, I must confess that Sanskrit remains my favorite and English has always retained the #1 slot for the most puzzling language!

As luck would have it, when I started my infatuation with English, everyone around me was in the same boat! Most of us at college were not from the metros, most of us never spoke English before! It was easy for all of us to make our quota of mistakes – without any inhibitions! That’s how we learnt!

  • FUD and Fun were always there – each of us had our own definition of what could be acceptable English! As a young boy from the south, I’d think of having a ‘cool drink’ – while some of my North Indian counterparts would want a ‘cold drink’!
  • When I didn’t know enough about beer, I always assumed it was to be called BEER to rhyme with ‘KEEP’. I don’t still understand why BEER and DEER should rhyme with DEAR or NEAR.
    • But, BEAR doesn’t rhyme with DEAR? (Recall the poem from the previous blog)
  • I was sufficiently confident that I knew my FOOD well – to me, the ‘oo’ rhymed with the ‘u’ in ‘PUT’. One fine morning, my teacher walks in to say ‘oo’ in food is supposed to rhyme with ‘loop’ L Imagine applying the same rule to ‘BLOOD’ (n)

We never knew which pronunciation was correct! Or, should I say right? (Do RIGHT and CORRECT mean the same thing? I was told they aren’t! )

It took many more years to realize that one should refer to a pronunciation key from a dictionary to know how to pronounce a word! How many of us do this?

One of the earliest lessons during ragging period was that it is one’s command over the language that would help showcase capabilities! (Yes – we had REAL ragging period in mid-80s)

Only those who used sit and gossip / discuss / argue for endless hours at the college ‘jhoops’ (informal hut-canteens) would get the jobs faster! They were the ones who could present their viewpoint better!

I had to make some action plans for myself to be ‘accepted’.

Step 1 was to read. Resolution was to read ANYTHING that was printed. (Dictionary definition of ANYTHING usually does not include recommended text books ) Long train journeys and few friends with personal favorites helped graduate from James Hadley Chase to Alistair Mclean to Earl Stanley Gardner to Ayn Rand!

Step 2 was to write – the only person I could write in English was my (imaginary) girlfriend! Until I began writing to seniors who had graduated from college (Graduated, and not ‘passed out’!).

Step 3 was to speak – both one-on-one and in front of groups! Speaking in front of groups took much longer – to muster courage! Natually so!

Have you read Kiran Mohan’s blog at ? If you didn’t, please do! Dont just read – practice!

After all these years of reading, a few books are very close to my heart!

  • The Great Indian Novel (by Shashi Tharoor) – a curious blend of Mahabharata and Indian Freedom Struggle. Makes me wish I could write like Mr Tharoor. One’s never too old to dream you see!
  • 1984 (by George Orwell) – besides the story, I love the concept of “Newspeak” that highlights why English needs simplification and how it could be done. For those who are interested, the full text can be found at
  • Murphy’s Law (compilation) – my Bible, my Bhagawad Gita, my Quran. That’s the set of laws that have been guiding me ‘All is well’ even when things aren’t!
  • Anguished English (a series of books by Richard Lederer) – the book that often makes me stop mid-sentence and wonder – am I doing that mistake?

For those who take their language seriously, I’d sure recommend the last one – amusing, entertaining and thought-provoking collection of ‘accidental assaults on English’.

For example, how would you react if your colleague were to say something like these?

  • ‘I saw you with my wife at the theatre yesterday’ (Would a comma help? How would you rewrite this?)
  • ‘One of my husbands friends told me’ (Punctuation omitted to tease you!)

Recently, there were a few “Gentle Remainders” for community sessions. Sorry sir – I don’t have time to attend ‘left over’ sessions!

Will give you more examples and Indianisms in a week or so!

Until then, happy learning!

P.S.: I recall learning that ‘gh-o-ti’ can be an acceptable spelling for the word ‘fish’.

Here’s how:

  • The letter combination GH is pronounced differently in the words – GHOST and LAUGH! Take the ‘f’ sound from LAUGH
  • The letter O is different in POT and in WOMEN! Take the sound of O from the word WOMEN
  • Listen to the letter combination TI in TIME and NATION. Take up the ‘sh’ sound from NATION

There we go – GHOTI is to be pronounced as FISH!

Next post may be delayed, but sure would love to mention many other things I learnt in / on / with / about / of English 🙂

One Response to TOEFL – How to pronounce GHOTI?

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