Fishing for the answer? This word-riddle-meets-optical illusion is harder to grasp than you might think.
TikTok users were left puzzled as they struggled to guess how to correctly pronounce the mystery word “ghoti”.
“Goaty” and “gotty” aren’t even close – because the true pronunciation of this word is actually a “creative repelling” of a very common word, and it blows the collective minds of competitive puzzlers.
[Warning: Spoilers below.]
Brace yourself: Ghoti is actually a grammatically correct – albeit alternative – spelling of the word “fish.”
Confused? The proof is in the phonetics.
Apparently the “gh” makes an “f” sound like in “enough”, the “o” makes an “i” sound like in “women” and the “ti” makes an “sh” sound like in “nation”, several TikTokers explained the visual challenge with more than 13.4 million viral variations on the video streaming platform.
This weird pun actually dates back to December 1855, according to the masterminds of the Language Log blog. The first confirmed use of the word “ghoti” appeared in vintage correspondence between British publisher/author Charles Ollier and cultural critic and poet Leigh Hunt.
On the third page of the letter, Ollier states: “My son William has found a new way to spell Fish. Ollier goes on to demonstrate the rationale: “So that ghost is fish.”
Fast forward 167 years – and the rest is history.
In a now viral clip with over 232,300 views, a TikToker probed the puzzle, leaving viewers in shock in the comments section.
“Just to be super clear, you won’t find ‘ghoti’ in a dictionary. It’s just a fun puzzle on irregular English pronunciation,” the user continued below the clip.
“So the word GHOST should actually be pronounced fist?” one user joked.
“Less puzzle, more stretch,” someone else chided.
“In the English language or in your specific English accent?” I am Scottish and I pronounce women with an oo sound,” another clarified.
“English literally makes no sense…It’s my native language but still lol,” another user joked.