Thursday, October 25, 2007

Quick question

Every time I get a new class, one of the students will say something like this to me. "You said often." The first time a student brought this up, I had no idea what they were talking about. "You said often, instead of offen," she clarified. But I still didn't understand what this was all about. I thought about it for a moment and said both pronunciations are acceptable. I said them out loud, "I eat often. I eat offen." They both sounded fine to me. Apparently, everyone up here is taught that we don't pronounce the t in often. It's a silent "t". Everybody knows it and how strange that I say "often" with the "t" pronounced. So I guess my question to you is, am I a freak for saying often with the t, or is it more common than my students suggest?

46 comments:

Lemuel said...

"Officially" th e"t" is silent in "often", but if you came from PA you would pronounce it as I do - and as you do - with the "t". Germans, unlike the French, pronounce EVERY letter. :)

Petie said...

As a Thais, I was taught in English class to pronounce 'Often' as 'Offen'

Maurice said...

As someone for whom French is officially his first language, I pronounce the T. So either we're both freaks or there's a lot of variation on that word... :)

Doug said...

No clue about the official ruling on this (the umpires are still consulting).

I hear both, but my enunciation sucks so I use as few letters as possible.

You're not a freak. Not cuz of this, anyway. >:)

Ed said...

Here in the Midwest we pronounce it oft-en with the accent on the t. They would make fun of those who say offen. Too close to Awful and offal. No what about Herb? Is is it erb or H-erb. My grandma called them Yarbs. I often call my brother Herb, Yarbie.

David said...

Here on the East Coast, you would be labeled pretentious if you pronounced the "t".

Fun fact: there is an entire comic scene from "The Pirates of Penzance" in which the words "often" and "orphan" are confused because they sound too alike.

vuboq said...

Not pronouncing the "t" is the sign of a lazy tongue. And who likes that? Not me!

Polt said...

I pronouce it 'OFF-ten", but then, as Lemuel said, I'm from PA, so I guess that's a local thing here...

HUGS...

Patricia said...

i pronounce it t-less but i think it's just one of the lazy words that have become acceptable. either version seems okay around here.

and, as others have lovingly pointed out, you're still a freak, just not in this particular instance.

Cooper said...

*lol* Vuboq. We pronounce the T here. All day now I'm going to be listening for that!

lattégirl said...

Both. I don't know how old your students are, but because most young people today are semi-illiterate anyway, I wouldn't take their comments very seriously.

(I can't believe I just wrote that..."young people today...").

Chunks said...

I think I say OfTen. I think. I've never really noticed. Damn. You're going to make me think today!

bardelf said...

This is a word I'd never thought about when it comes to pronunciation.
Everyone that I know here in central NC says "ofTen".
We do however drop most Gs with words endin in 'ing'. : )

Laverne said...

I believe both are acceptable, and there is no "official" way to say it. Perhaps it is regional. It's related to "oft" an archaic word in which the t is pronounced.

Also, from The free dictionary.com:

Usage Note: During the 15th century English experienced a widespread loss of certain consonant sounds within consonant clusters, [...] the (t) in chestnut and often. In this way the consonant clusters were simplified and made easier to articulate. With the rise of public education and literacy and, consequently, people's awareness of spelling in the 19th century, sounds that had become silent sometimes were restored, as is the case with the t in often, which is now frequently pronounced. In other similar words, such as soften and listen, the t generally remains silent.



Interesting, eh?

thatGuy said...

I pronounce the t - but I'm from the south where it is widely pronounced AWF-ten —

quite awften ; -)

dr. mo said...

In my experience, people in the Caribbean and many parts of England frequently say OFTen, even though I was taught to say OFFen by a British teacher. Face it people: Enlgish is spoken by too many people in too many parts of the world for it to have a single correct pronunciation of most things. We Spanish speakers don't freak out because we don't all sound alike --even if our spelling is a million times more straight-forward and we pronounce every letter, we don't pronounce them exactly the same from one place to the other...

GayProf said...

I have heard both, but never thought about it. I throughly disbelieve in being a language Nazi. As long as you communicate your ideas and everybody knows what you mean, does it really matter?

Lacey said...

gayprof, I agree that the important thing is to communicate, but yes, it does matter. I can't say exactly why. Perhaps 12 years of Catholic education makes me care.

Anyway, here in upstate NY, the T is seldom pronounced. But I'll be lisTening for the rest of the day, just to make sure.

(Why do some blogs use word verification, and others don't? It's so tedious.)

Patrick said...

In consulting several dictionaries, none of them offer 'ofT'en' as an option, offen is it. I bet in a few years that will change though. I fall somewhere in between the "rules must be followed" and the "language is a fluid, changing thing" camps, leaning more towards the latter. I guess I do go to dictionaries for the final word generally, as I did here.

Mark in DE said...

I have never heard of the concept that the "t" in "often" is silent. I've certainly heard people pronounce the word "offen" but assumed it was just from speaking quickly and not bothering to annunciate properly. Like the way some people say the word "sure" and it sounds like "shore". I've always chalked it up to lazy speech.

Personally, I prounce the "t" in "often", as "often" as I can, for "sure".

Mark :-)

mare said...

I pronounce the T in often and also the L in soldering. I was surprised when I noticed some people don't.

The Neighbors Will Hear said...

I recall that in an English course in middle school, we were told that the t should be silent. We were also told that the accent should fall on the second syllable of "advertisement." I don't recall anyone ever making a big deal of either ever again. I listented to myself say "often" about six times now, and I'm forced to the conclusion that my t falls somewhere between silent and voiced. I'm not saying "off-en," but I'm not saying "off-ten" either. The t's there, but it's not there.

I wouldn't tell anyone how to pronounce "often," but you can hardly blame your students since they've probably had their pronunciation drilled into them.

I grew up in a household with parents whose education ended with high school, so in college, I often found myself having to pronounce things I'd only read. I thought Goethe was pronounced "GO-phee." My own kids have hopefully had an easier time of it, but I was unable to stifle a laugh this summer when my daughter told me she'd downloaded some "buh-jork" onto her iPod.

Anonymous said...

The Gage Canadian gives both variations. I always pronounce the "t". My pet peeve is "recognize," which many pronounce as "re-co-nize." That drives me nuts.

bob said...

I remember a line in Dominick Dunne's "The Two Mrs. Grenvilles."

(and I paraphrase ...)

Socialites are talking about a social climber:

"He'll never marry her you know."

"What makes you so sure?"

"She pronounces the 't' in often."

:: :: ::

My Colllins Cobuild Advanced Learner's Dictionary says the t is silent.

Curtis said...

Or you could always just say "frequently" and leave it at that.

RJ March said...

I also use "offen." Do you also, being from PA, say "outen the lights"? I lived in Lancaster and heard that daily.

Lightning Bug's Butt said...

I grew up with "offen." Often (TEN) never sounded normal to me.

TankMontreal said...

For me it's a matter of context. I realize this only now that you've asked us to think about it.
In casual conversation, it's offen. If I'm trying to make a good impression, it's often. The flip is unconscious.

dawn said...

You know what is common? Our f'ing language being f'n ridiculous. WHY IS THE T IN THERE IF WE AREN'T SUPPOSED TO SAY IT????!!! Jesus Christ.

abnitude said...

i had to say it over and over in my head and decided i say offen. i am sure thats what i hear most offen.

Steven said...

I actually pronounce it both ways. When I pronounce it with the "t" is when "often" is the last word of a sentence.

Sunshine said...

I've heard both here in Australia. I prefer "often" because it makes more phonetic sense. :)

mainja said...

i have no idea why i say one over the other, or when i use one over the other, but i say both.

weird, eh?

Devo said...

I say often with the "t", my mom was always very clear on the proper english pronunciations and also the true Canadian spellings for words, which always flag on spellcheck since it's from the US. I think so many Canucks don't even know them anymore. It used to be that we spelled it flavour, not flavor, etc.....Funny.

Daniel, the Guy in the Desert said...

A Spanish speaking person would articulate the "t".
They pronounce "Tucson" like tuck-son, as opposed to Two-son.

Anonymous said...

i had'nt really thought about it so i checked it out and around here we say offen. Thats annoy'in to find out.
Proper pronunciation and Canadian spelling is however a pretty big deal to me even though i have only grade 8 education. I've been called on (in an predominantly American internet group) for my spelling of "colour"
I also really hate to hear people pronounce the fish as a sa -L- mon.
Forget the L folks. Its pronounced sammon!
Not to mention that here in Canada the last letter of the alphabet is ZED not ZEE!
oops sorry i've gone off subject.
Quin

The Wisdom of Wislon said...

I find myself saying it with and without the T

Fatinah said...

I grew up in Montreal - I've never heard it pronounced without the "t"??? Weird...

Cincy Diva said...

I say Often with the t, because I grew up in t he south and offen is an entirely different word...as in
Get offen my porch!

Freak Magnet said...

I usually say it with the 't', but sometimes my redneck heritage seeps in and I'm too lazy for it. But that doesn't happen ofTen.

Cameron said...

What a thought-provoking post!

I say OFF-en.

Isn't it interesting (or maybe not!) that one rarely hears "Off-ten" on a news broadcast, or, for that matter, anything on television.

St. Dickeybird said...

SAY IT WITH THE 'T'!!!!!

Only redneck inbred hillbillies skip consonants when they speak.

And no, I didn't read any of the other comments, so I'm likely offennin a few people I respec.

Naked Boy said...

The T is silent.

Arundel said...

It's "offen" for me in NY. Sorry to say, the other way sounds provincial.

Reminds me of another linguistic quirk.
I pronounce 'neither' as 'NYEther'- EXCEPT when I say, "Me NEEther". So strange!

Jessica said...

Down here [in the southern States], "only redneck inbred hillbillies skip consonants when they speak." Seriously: not pronouncing the 't' would make the speaker seem uneducated.

Anonymous said...

Actually, in the United States, the second 'T' is not merely silent, it takes the place of a stop consonant, so the next 'e' sort of comes out of nowhere --like the alef in Hebrew-- instead of arising gradually like all other vowels. "off'n" --like the space in "button". (for what it's worth.)