As an illustration of the need for spelling reform in English, someone (apparently not, as often attributed, George Bernard Shaw) pointed out that—taking the pronunciation of the letters from “rough,” “women,” and “ambition”—a word spelled “ghoti” could be pronounced precisely like the word “fish.”
To Tuscan ears our words, I’m sure, are rough,
a bastard tongue unfit for artifice,
so poor in rhyme it begs for change. Although
(used loosely like “however” here) it’s nice
sometimes to find such challenge on your plate,
this mess of unlike words you must somehow
force into form, calm and deliberate
(just smile if you drop endings, make no show
of guilt) and masterful while working through
a task that only lunatics would choose
(iamb’s a trochee, for God’s sake). We plough
a field of words whose soil is rich and loose.
We bait our lines to catch a squirming ghoti.
We like our damned tongue rough and devilish.
Dan Albergotti is the author of The Boatloads (BOA Editions, 2008). His poems have appeared in The Cincinnati Review, The Southern Review, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Pushcart Prize XXXIII, and elsewhere. He currently teaches creative writing and literature courses and edits the online journal Waccamaw at Coastal Carolina University.