Can You Spell Potato?

Many people for whom English is not the first language comment on the difficulties of learning English, with its multitude of rules and legions of exceptions to those rules, and with the seemingly arbitrary spelling rules we follow. For me, that is part of the fun of language, but I know that it drives others nuts.

When I was six, my grandfather taught me to spell fish as “ghoti.” I’ve loved telling people about this ever since.

“F” as in enouGH.
“I” as in wOmen.
“SH” as in naTIon.

This January, riding the tube in London, I came across another wonderful comment on English spelling.

Spell “potato” phonetically as: Ghoughphtheightteeau:

If PH can stand for P in hiccough
If OUGH can stand for O in dough
If PHTH can stand for T in phthisis
If EIGH can stand for A in neighbour (British spelling, remember)
If TTE can stand for T in gazette
If EAU can stand for O in plateau,

then the way you spell potato is PHOUGHPHTHEIGHTTEEU!