Thursday, December 14, 2006

Ofen and Often

The "t" sound is coming back to often after being away for 300 years. When I was younger, I don't think anyone used the pronunciation of often-with-the-t. I noticed it a few years ago and researched it to try and understand what was happening. I wondered at first if my pronunciation ofen was more of a New England pronunciation, gradually vanishing as it was exposed to a national tendency to keep the t. This did not turn out to be true.

Pronouncing the "t" is an overcorrection, used by frequent readers who suddenly worried about 20 years ago whether they had been saying it wrongly all their lives. They hadn't. Ofen was the only correct pronunciation until recently. But the reemergence of the "t" has been explosive, and at least 25% of the population uses it now. I will hazard a guess that it is people who have more exposure to the archaic word oft that are leading the change.


Anonymous said...

If you pronounce the "t" then you won't be able to confuse the pirates!

**starts whistling Gilbert & Sullivan**


Anonymous said...

...Although, it may be because there are those among us who want to sound more mature/glamorous/intelligent, and they will try to find ways to do so. For example, there are a lot of people (I have met a few) who will try to say, "John went with Jill and I." For some reason, these folks seem to think that "and I" makes them sound more mature/glamorous/intelligent, like using the word "I" is more enlightened than using the word "me", not realizing that a 7th grade English student could smack that grammatical error down.

Maybe "often" versus "ofen" is another expression of pretentiousness.

How do the British pronounce it? Some people seem to think if you sound British, then you are more mature/glamorous/intelligent.


Anonymous said...

Interesting, my mom, who was a drama teacher and english teacher insisted we pronounce the "t" as far back as I remember. On the other hand, she often use "Eh" which in my todlerhood always sounded like "egg" and I couldn't understand why she said that at all.

Steve Burri said...

That's so one doesn't confuse the term in such statements as, "We a be offen BillyBob tonight!"