Do you pronounce the T in "often"
May 1, 2009 6:06 AM   Subscribe

Do you pronounce the T in "often"?

It has been my understanding that it is acceptable either way, but the preferred method is not to do it. Do you/should you pronounce it or is it silent?

My background: US Midwesterner living in the Northeast
posted by Slenny to Writing & Language (136 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I do. (I live in Eastern Canada)

and for the record, this question reminds me of the awesome orphan/often scene in "Pirates of Penzance". Classic!
posted by gwenlister at 6:08 AM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ugh, no. I'm a US Midwesterner living in the mid-atlantic (DC suburbs).
posted by selfmedicating at 6:10 AM on May 1, 2009


I do, too. Born in California, live in the Northeast. I think the preferred way is however you say it; this one doesn't even rise to UM-brella levels of annoyance for me.
posted by dame at 6:11 AM on May 1, 2009


I don't. The one person I know who does is from the southeast.
posted by availablelight at 6:11 AM on May 1, 2009


(k)nope!

eastern U.S.
posted by nnk at 6:11 AM on May 1, 2009


I do. Raised in upstate New York, now live in Chicago.
posted by wyzewoman at 6:11 AM on May 1, 2009


Ohio here and I use both and I don't really have a sense of which one I use more.
posted by mmascolino at 6:12 AM on May 1, 2009


New York (city) born and raised, no "T" in often.
I thought pronouncing the "t" was a sort of hypercorrection, like pronouncing protein with three syllables or vegetable with four. But now I am softening (with a silent "t") my stance.
posted by xetere at 6:14 AM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I do not pronounce it. Grew up in PA, live in MD. xetere's opinion precisely mirrors my own.
posted by cheapskatebay at 6:15 AM on May 1, 2009


No, but I live in Boston. As a lot, Bostonians are not the go-to guys on pronunciation of letters.
posted by jerseygirl at 6:15 AM on May 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't. Southern California. Los Angeles.
posted by snowjoe at 6:17 AM on May 1, 2009


Occasionally. I blame this on having lived equal parts of my life in New York, Florida and Boston.
posted by zerokey at 6:20 AM on May 1, 2009


I often do. Frequently.
General. Ah! you said "often", frequently.

King. No, only once.

General. (irritated) Exactly – you said “often”, frequently, only once.
posted by orthogonality at 6:22 AM on May 1, 2009 [6 favorites]


Here's an interesting article on this very subject.
OFTEN was pronounced with a t- sound until the 17th century, when a pronunciation without the (t) came to predominate in the speech of the educated, in both North America and Great Britain, and the earlier pronunciation fell into disfavor. Common use of a spelling pronunciation has since restored the (t) for many speakers, and today [AWF-in] and [AWF-tin]…exist side by side. Although it is still sometimes criticized, OFTEN with a (t) is now so widely heard from educated speakers that it has become fully standard once again.
posted by Floydd at 6:22 AM on May 1, 2009 [8 favorites]


When I read/say the word in my head, I pronounce the 't'. When I say the word out loud I do not. Go figure.

Background: formative years spent in southwest + NJ.
posted by wrok at 6:23 AM on May 1, 2009


Sometimes. A minority of the time I think.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 6:25 AM on May 1, 2009


I never pronounced it with a T when I was a kid in Montreal (and I remember being caught out on a spelling test because of it), but I usually pronounce it with the T now. I don't remember making a conscious choice about it, so it might be a common Toronto pronunciation that I absorbed.
posted by maudlin at 6:26 AM on May 1, 2009


I do. Raised equally in the Midwest and South, took a journalism course aimed at giving me a "non-accent" for television work. I think I pronounced the "t" before that, however.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:27 AM on May 1, 2009


I do.

Born and raised in Ohio.
posted by LittleKnitting at 6:28 AM on May 1, 2009


Midwesterner here, I pronounce it with the T most of the time. A counter-example would be "more often than not," which for some reason I wouldn't pronounce with the T.
posted by burnmp3s at 6:30 AM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I do. And it sounds funny to me without it. NJ raised.
posted by inigo2 at 6:34 AM on May 1, 2009


Yeah, I think I mix it up. I have no idea which one I use more often. Heh.

(Mainer by birth, lived in NYC about ten years).
posted by lampoil at 6:35 AM on May 1, 2009


Yep! Born and raised in Toronto.
posted by legendarygirlfriend at 6:36 AM on May 1, 2009


I do as well.

Raised in Texas, now in Chicago.

(T goes silent the drunker I get.)
posted by nitsuj at 6:36 AM on May 1, 2009


I say the T.
Born and raised in AZ (the news caster voice state).
posted by blackout at 6:37 AM on May 1, 2009


I don't, ever. Raised in PA/Philadelphia area and southern NJ.
posted by gudrun at 6:40 AM on May 1, 2009


Nope. (Raised all over, father from Ozarks, mother from Iowa.) It used to irritate me when people pronounced the t because I thought it was a spelling pronunciation, but now I realize it's just an alternate pronunciation.
posted by languagehat at 6:41 AM on May 1, 2009


I do.

US born (Midwest), internationally raised.
posted by HFSH at 6:41 AM on May 1, 2009


I pronounce the t - raised in New England, live in MO.

My bf does not - raised in IL
posted by hworth at 6:43 AM on May 1, 2009


Nope. Michigan raised, have lived in North Carolina for the last 13 years.
posted by Stewriffic at 6:45 AM on May 1, 2009


I definitely pronounce the T, and was born and raised in Georgia (but I haven't a southern accent).

I've lived in and visited many different parts of the country, and have not really noticed that other people say it differently... will have to pay attention now. I'm guessing it is said as "offen" without the T? That seems weird to me.
posted by bengarland at 6:46 AM on May 1, 2009


“often”, frequently, only once.

I want to favorite this many more times than I am able.
posted by ocherdraco at 6:46 AM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I do. Born and raised Liverpool, UK
posted by zeoslap at 6:47 AM on May 1, 2009


I don't pronounce the T. From NC.
posted by greta simone at 6:47 AM on May 1, 2009


I do sometimes, but I think I picked this up when I resolved to eliminate most of my Baltimore accent.
posted by desuetude at 6:49 AM on May 1, 2009


No no no. Grew up in Massachusetts but got started in Indiana and Illinois.
posted by dirtdirt at 6:49 AM on May 1, 2009


No. Nevada. Full disclosure, though: We pronounce the second "a" of Nevada" like the "a" in "cat."
posted by bricoleur at 6:51 AM on May 1, 2009


I do, San Francisco, CA here. "Offen" sounds hickish to me. Uh, no offense to the 50% of the people here who don't pronounce the T.. Just saying.

I had no idea it was pronounced differently elsewhere until this moment.. thanks, asker)
posted by cj_ at 6:52 AM on May 1, 2009


No offense taken, cj_ . Note that to those of us from the land of offen those who pronounce the t sound affected (again, no offense, it must be a regional thing.)
posted by gudrun at 6:56 AM on May 1, 2009


Raised in Massachusetts and still live here - I say "offen" and "of-ten" sounds affected.
posted by dfan at 7:03 AM on May 1, 2009


No. Born and raised in Texas but I've always been told I have no accent.
posted by marginaliana at 7:09 AM on May 1, 2009


I do 98% of the time. Born in Virginia to Northern parents. But the T isn't the star of the word - it's very aspirated but still there - more like awf(ti)n than off-Ten, unless I'm drawling for effect.
posted by julen at 7:19 AM on May 1, 2009


Sometimes, but I think when I do pronounce the "t" it's pretty soft. From WI.
posted by Fin Azvandi at 7:24 AM on May 1, 2009


No, god no, please do not pronounce the T in often. It makes my teeth hurt. (Yes, language is descriptive, so the fact so many people do it means that it's "acceptable" now, but please don't.)

When I hear people do this, my first impression is that they're trying too hard. It sounds affected, hypercorrect, pretentious.
posted by rokusan at 7:30 AM on May 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


I don't believe I typically pronounce it, but it doesn't really sound odd when I try it with the "t".

Born and raised in Rochester, NY.
posted by agentmunroe at 7:37 AM on May 1, 2009


Yes, of course I do, and it surprises me that people feel strongly about this. "Oftentimes" presents no problems either, and doesn't sound like a stutter. So, without pronouncing the "t", it's meant to rhyme with "coffin"?
posted by Houstonian at 7:41 AM on May 1, 2009


I use the t. I'm from Texas.

(You T-sayers... I want to hear you say 'oftentimes', dammit. Do you stutter?)
I don't stutter.... Think about, :the alarm went off ten times this morning." I'm sure you can say that with no stutter.
posted by magikker at 7:42 AM on May 1, 2009


Most of the time, but I think when I do pronounce the "t" it's pretty soft. From PA.
posted by qldaddy at 7:46 AM on May 1, 2009


No. Chicago.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 7:48 AM on May 1, 2009


Yes. South-east UK.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:51 AM on May 1, 2009


Yes. (Toronto) Without the T sounds pretentious to me. I didn't know it was a regional thing either.
posted by saucysault at 7:53 AM on May 1, 2009


No...first 22 years in NJ (and Northeast) and 17 years in Texas.
posted by murrey at 7:57 AM on May 1, 2009


No. Pittsburgh.
posted by homuncula at 8:03 AM on May 1, 2009


having read this whole thread I now have no idea which way I go, as the word has begun to look entirely alien and both ways seem wrong, but, I will say I agree that the t is pretty soft in any case, and one could easily slip between the options with more ease than switching one's tomayto - tomahto predilection.

My guess is I'm more likely to pronounce it just because I probably learned more of my vocab from reading than from listening or talking, being a big-time reader as a child, so I would be more prone to pronounce things as they're spelled. Grew up east coast.
posted by mdn at 8:03 AM on May 1, 2009


Yes, otherwise it sounds like "offin'." I've been told that I over-enunciate my "t"s for many words though (example: apartment). Lived in Illinois for the last 21 years, Chicago for the last 3. My roommate from Hawaii, in addition to other people that I've met from the island, also has similar diction.
posted by joydivasian at 8:06 AM on May 1, 2009


I do. US Upper Midwesterner since age 10, born in the mid-Atlantic.
posted by Madamina at 8:07 AM on May 1, 2009


No - born and raised in Yorkshire, UK.
posted by idiomatika at 8:11 AM on May 1, 2009


Yes... raised in upper east TN. I never ever realized that people pronounce it without the T.
posted by kimdog at 8:11 AM on May 1, 2009


I don't, from Yorkshire in the north of England.
posted by tumples at 8:17 AM on May 1, 2009


Never. Born in and spent most of my life in Massachusetts.
posted by Kosh at 8:17 AM on May 1, 2009


No. Eastern Ontario
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 8:24 AM on May 1, 2009


No. San Francisco.
posted by oozy rat in a sanitary zoo at 8:25 AM on May 1, 2009


Depends on the register I'm using. The 't' is present in the higher register, but absent in lower one.
posted by Sova at 8:30 AM on May 1, 2009


No. San Francisco. From North Carolina via the Eastern seaboard and the mid-west US.
posted by trip and a half at 8:30 AM on May 1, 2009


No. Australia.
posted by flabdablet at 8:38 AM on May 1, 2009


Just curious.

Do those of you who pronounce the t in often also pronounce it in words like listen, soften, christen, hasten ... etc.?

I don't pronounce the t in often or in any of these other words. My pronunciation of them is offen, lissen, soffen, chrissen, haysen. If you do pronounce the t in often, but don't in the other words, then do you have any thoughts on why there is a difference?
posted by gudrun at 8:40 AM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


No, but I have only a light southern accent, despite being from Southern Mississippi, where I am surrounded by folks who say "sal-mon."
posted by thebrokedown at 8:50 AM on May 1, 2009


No. Grew up in Northern Virginia and lived in Eastern Massachusetts for 12 years before returning to NoVa.
posted by cerebus19 at 8:57 AM on May 1, 2009


Yes. All of my formative (and the vast majority of my adult) years in New England. No troubles with 'oftentimes,' either.
posted by spinturtle at 8:59 AM on May 1, 2009


Yes, usually. But it's more OFT-en than of-TEN. I sometimes don't if I'm speaking quickly or drawling, but in normal speech I do. Boston raised, San Francisco now.

I don't pronounce the T in listen, soften, christen, hasten and have never heard anyone else pronounce them that way either. My only explanation for why there's a difference is: that's the English language for you. I don't have a problem saying oftentimes. I agree with cj_ that offen can sound hickish, again with no disrespect to all the people who use it - I honestly had no idea there was so much debate about this word.
posted by Nickel at 9:01 AM on May 1, 2009


Speaking quickly, I don't pronounce it, but when I'm thinking about what I'm saying, I will pronounce it. (It's similar with caramel, where in quick speech I'll pronounce car-mel, whereas when I'm thinking about it I'll pronounce the second 'a'.) I've always lived in southeast PA.
posted by zorrine at 9:10 AM on May 1, 2009


"Offen" sounds hickish to me.

Just so we're clear on the history here (which is not, of course, determinative of present usage): "offen" is the older pronunciation and the only one approved of by traditional purist types. Garner (who can be depended on for traditional purism) says "The educated pronunciation is /of-ən/, but the less adept say /of-tən/... Similar words with a silent t are chasten, fasten, hasten, listen, soften, and whistle." The third edition of Fowler says "The OED (1904) gave only the pronunciation /ↄ:fən/, but since then the vowel has almost universally been replaced by /ɒ/ as in not and a spelling pronunciation with medial /t/ has also emerged in standard speech."

This is obviously not meant to make anyone feel bad about pronouncing the t, just to set the record straight (and hopefully prevent any further ill-informed commentary).
posted by languagehat at 9:12 AM on May 1, 2009 [6 favorites]


No, from Mass./CT/NYC.
posted by troywestfield at 9:16 AM on May 1, 2009


No, I don't. UK citizen (London area) now living in Los Angeles, CA. Not sure if I used to pronounce it when I lived back in Blighty and have lost it, or if I never did.

And gudrun, I don't pronounce the T in any of those words on your list either.
posted by Joh at 9:22 AM on May 1, 2009


Yes! I do pronounce it. And as I do a radio show about language, I get emails from listeners all the time, in which they wrongly chastise me.
posted by Mo Nickels at 9:35 AM on May 1, 2009


Speaking quickly, I don't pronounce it, but when I'm thinking about what I'm saying, I will pronounce it.

I do exactly like zorrine, except that I was raised and continue to live in the Pacific NW.
posted by Skot at 9:38 AM on May 1, 2009


Yes, much like the other Torontonians in the thread. I did notice while at university in southwestern Ontario, however, that people raised in that area typically don't pronounce the t.
posted by thisjax at 9:41 AM on May 1, 2009


I don't. As for gudrun's list (listen, soften, christen, hasten), I only pronounce the t in hasten. Or at least I think I would. I don't think I say hasten very much in daily conversation.

I grew up kind of everywhere (my family moved several times during my formative years). I spent the most time in Texas, but I most certainly do not have a Texas accent.
posted by xiaoyi at 9:43 AM on May 1, 2009


I don't. According to this book, it's beastly to do so.
posted by dreamphone at 9:58 AM on May 1, 2009


Nope. Virginia.
posted by soma lkzx at 10:10 AM on May 1, 2009


Speaking quickly, I don't pronounce it, but when I'm thinking about what I'm saying, I will pronounce it.

Same here, Boston-suburb-raised w/ a mid-western parent, and that's when "store-bought'en" is likely to emerge as well.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 10:10 AM on May 1, 2009


I don't. According to this book, it's beastly to do so.

From that book: http://www.pbs.org/speak/speech/beastly/#Often
posted by JFitzpatrick at 10:20 AM on May 1, 2009


I do. Born and raised in Oregon, now live in California.
posted by JenMarie at 10:29 AM on May 1, 2009


Nope. Born and live in Montreal.
posted by zadcat at 10:38 AM on May 1, 2009


Do those of you who pronounce the t in often also pronounce it in words like listen, soften, christen, hasten ... etc.?

I pronounce the 't' in 'often' but not in any of the other words. Seven years in New Jersey, five in Central California (Grass Valley), six in Northern California (San Mateo), fifteen in Southern California (San Diego). The only time I remember others not pronouncing the 't' was in Grass Valley, and maybe that's why I agree with the above posters who associate the pronunciation with "hicks."
posted by Thoughtcrime at 10:51 AM on May 1, 2009


re: why often might be different from listen, hasten, etc, perhaps the relation of oft and often? If one reads too much Shakespeare in high school, or just hears phrases like "oft-repeated", the "t" might become more noticeable...

It's true that haste and hasten could be argued to have a similar relationship, but a) I think the pronunciation with a t is more difficult after an s, whereas it's quite natural after the f, and b) oft and often have basically the exact same meaning, whereas haste and hasten are different forms, hasten being "make haste".

Soften is the best example from the list, as it has the f, though again it's "make soft". With "oft" you could literally use the word "oft" and then choose to extend it halfway through, into often. So although we don't use the word oft much now, at a time when people did, it seems like the pronunciation with the t must have happened from time to time...
posted by mdn at 10:54 AM on May 1, 2009


Nope. Raised near Toronto, now in Ottawa.
posted by aclevername at 10:57 AM on May 1, 2009


I don't pronounce it. California girl, both SF and LA.

I was taught that people who did pronounce the t were less educated, and now I find it funny that they were taught that our way sounds hickish.
posted by nadise at 11:12 AM on May 1, 2009


I do! But then again, I also pronounce the "t" in exactly. Yes, people give me a hard time about it. I'm from Phoenix.
posted by TurquoiseZebra at 11:19 AM on May 1, 2009


So, after reading most of this thread, I'm a bit confused.

For those of you who leave off the T sound in, for example, soften and hasten do you say it like "soffen" and "hasen" (with the a as in gate) ?

I definitely say them with the T -- not a strong T, granted, but it's definitely there .

Also, do you pronounce soft and haste as "soff" and "hase"?
posted by bengarland at 11:24 AM on May 1, 2009


I do, born/raised in southern New Mexico.

But it isn't a stressed t... it's sort of a, I don't know... subliminal t? I know my tongue is hitting my teeth to make a "t" sound, and it definitely is there when I listen, but it isn't a "spitting t" where the sound is intended to carry, like in "halt" or "mart".

It's indeed peculiar, how it doesn't seem to have much regional correlation.
posted by hippybear at 11:34 AM on May 1, 2009


bengarland - we do pronounce the t in soft and haste, just as we also pronounce the t in oft. However, the t is silent in words like often, so we pronounce often as offen, soften as soffen, and hasten as haysen (the a as in gate).
posted by gudrun at 11:36 AM on May 1, 2009


No.
posted by Space Kitty at 11:48 AM on May 1, 2009


Southern Ontario, here. I sometimes do and sometimes don't. Same with "soften", and to an extent, "hasten".

Does anyone actually say "lisTen", though? Cuz that's just weird...
posted by wsp at 11:53 AM on May 1, 2009


ofT-en.

Yes. Alberta. Calgary. British Parents.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:01 PM on May 1, 2009


Yes, it's correct either way. But to me pronouncing the "t" labels you as "uneducated-trying-to-sound-educated."

Kinda like using "myriad" as a noun instead of as an adjective.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:20 PM on May 1, 2009


When I read or read aloud: Yes. (oft-en)
During casual conversation: No. (off-en)

but in both circumstances:

haste sounds like paste
hasty s/l pasty
hasten s/l mason

CT & CA (East & West Coast)
posted by artdrectr at 12:35 PM on May 1, 2009


I ws raised to say it that way "Offen" is incorrect and sounds uneducated, I was taught. I'm from Texas, born and raised.
posted by grablife365 at 12:38 PM on May 1, 2009


I do if speaking slowly, but when I'm speaking rapidly (as in conversations) I don't.

Grew up in CT, now in upstate NY.
posted by pemberkins at 12:44 PM on May 1, 2009


Yes, the t is pronounced.

From Maine.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 1:15 PM on May 1, 2009


Often.

Michigan to California, me.
posted by klangklangston at 1:19 PM on May 1, 2009


Never. Grew up a ways south of Pittsburgh. It's sort of a halfway Pittsburgh/halfway Appalachian accent out there. No trace of a "t" whatsoever - I'd say "offen." And "soffen," and "hasen."

Pronouncing it sounds hideously stilted to my ears, just pretentious. I recognize it is part of the accent some places, but if I started doing it everyone back home would think I was putting on airs. A friend of mine habitually pronounces all the "T"s, and I know it's just how he was raised, but I involuntarily get aggravated every time.
posted by citron at 1:27 PM on May 1, 2009


No t. Military brat, but both of my parents are from the midwest. Saying the "t" is just weird :)
posted by Kimberly at 1:28 PM on May 1, 2009


Yes to the t. And when I am feeling particularly pretentious, I say "oft."

Grew up in NYC.
posted by elizardbits at 1:35 PM on May 1, 2009


Not usually, although I will sometimes pronounce the T for emphasis.

From central Illinois, picked up a fairly neutral accent in Chicago during my adolescence.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:40 PM on May 1, 2009


Not offen.

NJ/NYC raised, ATL and Nashville past ~9 years.

is someone tallying up the scores here?
posted by NikitaNikita at 1:55 PM on May 1, 2009


No, and pronouncing the "t" makes you sound simultaneously pretentious and dumb.

Arizona and Oregon.
posted by darksasami at 2:03 PM on May 1, 2009


Yes, it's correct either way. But to me pronouncing the "t" labels you as "uneducated-trying-to-sound-educated."
Kinda like using "myriad" as a noun instead of as an adjective.


Sigh. Myriad was a noun in Greek, it continued to be a noun when it was borrowed into Latin, and it is still a noun in English. Here, have some OED citations:
A. n.

1. a. Chiefly Ancient Hist. Ten thousand; a set of ten thousand of anything; esp. a unit of ten thousand soldiers.
Principally in translations from Greek or Latin, or with reference to the numbering system of ancient Greece.
1555 R. EDEN tr. Peter Martyr of Angleria Decades of Newe Worlde III. v. f. 116 (margin) One myriade is ten thousande. ... 1811 T. JEFFERSON Let. 10 Nov. in Writings (1984) 1253 A kiliad would be not quite a rood, or quarter of an acre; a myriad not quite 2½ acres. ... 1991 C. B. BOYER & U. C. MERZBACH Hist. Math. (rev. ed.) ix. 141 He developed a scheme of ‘tetrads’ for expressing large numbers, using an equivalent of exponents of the single myriad, whereas Archimedes had used the double myriad as a base.

b. Ten thousand of a particular monetary unit (inferred from the context). Obs.
1601 R. JOHNSON tr. G. Botero Travellers Breviat 67 [They] pay little lesse then two myriades [It. millioni] and a halfe of ordinarie reuenue. ...

2. a. In pl. Countless numbers of people or things; legions, hosts, hordes of the persons or things specified.
1555 R. EDEN tr. Peter Martyr of Angleria Decades of Newe Worlde III. v. f. 116, It is a miserable thynge to heare howe many myriades of men these..devourers of mans flesshe haue consumed. ... 1989 R. PENROSE Emperor's New Mind x. 432 It would not be a single individual universe-history that would be fixed by a precise mathematical scheme, but the totality of myriads upon myriads of ‘possible’ universe-histories that would be so determined.

b. In sing. A countless number of specified things.
1609 A. CRAIG Poet. Recreations sig. A4v, Thus feeling ill, and fearing worse each day, A miriad of mis-fortunes I embrace. ... 1869 ‘M. TWAIN’ Innocents Abroad xxx. 321 Throw a stone into the water, and the myriad of tiny bubbles that are created flash out a brilliant glare like blue theatrical fires. ... 1987 Observer 20 Sept. 46/4 A myriad of small, specialist software companies have also been spawned in the new ‘sunrise high-tech’ areas.

3. a. In pl. Countless multitudes, hosts (with the objects intended inferred from the context).
1559 J. AYLMER Harborowe sig. B3v, A sclender pollycie to make so many Myriades to flee. 1667 MILTON Paradise Lost I. 87 Who.. Cloth'd with transcendent brightnes didst outshine Myriads though bright. ... 1986 A. C. CLARKE Songs of Distant Earth II. vii. 25 Yet though myriads sought forgetfulness, even more found satisfaction, as some men had always done, in working for goals beyond their own lifetimes.

b. In sing. A countless multitude, a throng.
In quot. 1611 used adverbially to modify a comparative: by a very large amount, a great deal.
1611 B. JONSON Catiline II. ii. sig. D4, For the act, I can haue secret fellowes, With backs worth ten of him, and shall please mee.. a myriade better. ... 1998 G. VIDAL Smithsonian Inst. iii. 80 He was suddenly no longer T. He was a myriad. A galaxy where once he had been singular, himself.

c. by myriads: in uncountably large numbers.
?a1659 T. PESTELL Poems (1940) 71 And 't were a blest fate, if such things as I, To make thee live, might but by myriades die. 1728 POPE Dunciad III. 81 The North by myriads pours her mighty sons. ... a1918 W. OWEN Coll. Poems (1963) 114 Leaves Murmuring by myriads in the shimmering trees.

d. in myriads: in countless numbers.
1727 C. PITT Poems & Transl. 145 To the Fight from Ægypt's fruitful Soil, Pour'd forth in Myriads all the Sons of Nile. ... 1970 P. O'BRIAN Master & Commander ix. 277, I might have..beheld the ibis, the Mareotic grallatores in their myriads.
The first citation as an adjective is from 1735 (H. BROOKE Universal Beauty IV. 11 The myriad minim Race Inscrutable amid th'etherial Space). Now, who were you calling "uneducated-trying-to-sound-educated"—Milton? Ben Jonson? Jefferson? Twain? Patrick O'Brian? Arthur C. Clarke?
posted by languagehat at 2:10 PM on May 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


Sometimes. Southeast UK, slight american accent. Both sound acceptable.
posted by katrielalex at 2:11 PM on May 1, 2009


Sometimes.

Once, in Utah, I asked a 7-11 clerk who had a foreign accent for "water" and he didn't know what I was talking about until I stopped pronouncing the t.
posted by aniola at 2:39 PM on May 1, 2009


Isn't this just a 'glottal T' issue? I often say 'often' without pronouncing the T, as per the norm in Hiberno-English, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be pronounced. But I guess it's probably just one of those myriad differences that exist between this side of the pond and t'other.
posted by macdara at 2:52 PM on May 1, 2009


I don't know if anyone has mapped the red and blue pins on this thread yet, but I don't think this is will turn out to be regional at all. I think it's viral.

I hear a lot of overpronounced T's in Los Angeles, for example, but that's a city where everyone and their mistress is trying too damn hard to impress everyone they meet.

I think some of us probably had hypercorrective teachers in primary school who had strong opinions about pronouncing the T in order to sound "more correct". (I also happen to think these same teachers, or their descendants, today teach children to type the ridiculous two spaces after a period, but that's just me.)

And we pass it on down to our children, or some of us do.

I also like the Shakespeare Overdose* theory, though.

(* note to self: possible band name.)
posted by rokusan at 3:51 PM on May 1, 2009


Kinda like using "myriad" as a noun instead of as an adjective.

WTF is wrong with myriad as a noun?
posted by rokusan at 3:52 PM on May 1, 2009


Or what Languagehat said. I rock.
posted by rokusan at 3:53 PM on May 1, 2009


Never. NJ
posted by natalie b at 3:59 PM on May 1, 2009


Nope. Never. Grew up in Montreal, parents from New York; also lived in Toronto, Chicago, and Bloomington IN; now in Northern California.
posted by tangerine at 4:37 PM on May 1, 2009


No. Central Indiana.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:39 PM on May 1, 2009


Sometimes (Toronto).
"I often think"... I'd pronounce the T.
"She breaks dishes pretty offen"... I wouldn't pronounce the T.
I think maybe the closer it is to the beginning of the sentence, the likelier I am to pronunce the T. Both sound fine to me.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 5:16 PM on May 1, 2009


No T. I'm from Oregon.
posted by liet at 6:52 PM on May 1, 2009


No. From Central Illinois.
posted by mathlete at 7:46 PM on May 1, 2009


San Francisco Bay Area-born and raised; only ever lived in Northern California. No "t".
posted by Lexica at 7:57 PM on May 1, 2009


No. Grew up in Rochester, NY, have lived in western CT for 10+ years.

My daughter, who so far has grown up in western CT, does pronounce it!
posted by gnomeloaf at 8:05 PM on May 1, 2009


I'm from Trinidad and Tobago and I say it without the 't' sound. But once, one of my linguistics lecturers polled the class on the issue, and IIRC most of them say it like it's spelled.

It's hilarious that people on both sides of the divide find the other side's pronunciation brutish and uneducated. Of course. As a child I was traumatised by proponents of both the 'eight' and 'ett' pronunciations of 'ate', and those words still catch in my throat. I have to spit one out at random and then glance anxiously around to find out who thinks less of me.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 8:11 PM on May 1, 2009


Never. Raised on Lake Michigan shores.
posted by sparrowdance at 8:12 PM on May 1, 2009


I used to always pronounce it with the T, until I read online that that was not the correct way to do it. Saying it with the T still sounds better to me now, but I just can't bring myself to pronounce it, even though I still want to!
posted by srrh at 8:33 PM on May 1, 2009


THIS THREAD HAS BLOWN MY MIND

Normally I pronounce the T when I am trying to minimize my hick accent.

I do not pronounce the T when I am being my authentic hillbilly self.

We were actually saying something correctly in Kentucky for once?
posted by little e at 9:30 PM on May 1, 2009


No. Born in Nova Scotia, Canada. My kid does, though.
(on a somewhat related topic, I was brought up thinking "ass" was polite, and "arse" was vulgar, but an acquaintance from Newfoundland was taught just the opposite.)
posted by fish tick at 10:57 PM on May 1, 2009


I was taught by my grammar freak 12 grade english teacher (Ph D), that you don't pronounce the "t". But, you do pronounce it in "oft".

Soften--Often
Soft--Oft

Both words sound nearly the same, just with/without the initial "s".
posted by Precision at 11:21 PM on May 1, 2009


NEVER

(Raised in central coast California, educated in Mass., lived in Chicago, Oregon, and Seoul).

In fact, that "t" is a pet peeve of mine, and I usually take it to mean that the speaker is trying to sound edumacated, much like how extremely poorly educated people will toss the past perfect around for no real reason.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 1:30 AM on May 2, 2009


No T for me. Brisbane, Australia, with a wee bit of time in Toronto, Canada.
posted by springbound at 1:47 AM on May 2, 2009


In fact, that "t" is a pet peeve of mine, and I usually take it to mean that the speaker is trying to sound edumacated,

I'm not entirely convinced that "often" belongs on the list with soften, hasten, listen, christen, fasten etc. Every one of the other words given is a verb.

It kind of seems like often coincidentally sounds like a group of words but in actuality doesn't have the same form... It is an extension of a short form "oft" which is related to old german ufta, swedish ofta, nordish oft, all of which seem to keep the t. it even seems like "often" could have developed in order to say "oft times" and have a transitive syllable.

I know these are just random thoughts, but basically, it seems like either pronunciation could have reasons.
posted by mdn at 5:28 AM on May 2, 2009


I'm not entirely convinced that "often" belongs on the list with soften, hasten, listen, christen, fasten etc. Every one of the other words given is a verb.

You've missed the point, which is not that the words are similar grammatically but that they have silent t's in identical phonetic situations.

I know these are just random thoughts, but basically, it seems like either pronunciation could have reasons.

It is a mistake (and one almost universally made by non-linguists) to look for "reasons" why language is the way it is. The reason you say something a certain way is because that's how your parents and/or schoolmates said it, not because it's "logical" or "sensible" or "consistent" or whatever. Both /of-ən/ and /of-tən/ are "correct" pronunciations, in that large numbers of people use each of them; if you pronounced it "oafen," that would be wrong, not because of logic or history but because nobody else says it that way.

You pronounce author with voiceless -th- (as in Arthur), right? Well, historically, that's completely unjustified. The word is from Old French autor (modern French auteur), from Latin auctor, and was originally written with or without the -c- in English (Wyclif uses auctor, Chaucer autour). Sometime during the 16th century people started adding an -h-, presumably because it looked classier, at first applying it to the form auctour so as to make aucthour. The OED says, "It is impossible to say to what extent these factitious spellings affected the spoken word, or when the modern pronunciation was established." At any rate, the point is that the word "should" (from a historical point of view) be pronounced like otter, but you don't say it that way, and you're right not to, because the "incorrect" form with -th- is universally used in the English-speaking world and is therefore correct.
posted by languagehat at 7:11 AM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


The reason you say something a certain way is because that's how your parents and/or schoolmates said it, not because it's "logical" or "sensible" or "consistent" or whatever.

well sure, but that's a bit of a "first cause" problem... I say it that way because of my parents/ schoolmates, but why do they say it that way? etc. Anyway, I understand the popular view is to be content with "that's just what happened" but when there are clear patterns it seems worth taking closer looks at relationships. I was just responding to claims about often being similar to hasten, soften etc - because they look similar. But in fact they are significantly different too, which seemed worth pointing out if we're going to point out the similarity.

None of that has anything to do with a claim on what's "correct" now - as you say, what's used or considered acceptable by the majority gets the go ahead, regardless of its history. (Though, on the other hand, if you ever have to teach grammar or basic english to high schoolers, those textbooks do all say there's a right answer and a wrong one...)
posted by mdn at 7:36 PM on May 2, 2009


Seems I do when I'm miffed, but not when I'm happy. Los Angeles born and raised.
posted by Scram at 7:56 AM on May 3, 2009


I've lived most of my life in Ohio and I have pronounced it both ways. I'm not sure if I have a subconscious rule about when I pronounce the T, but both pronuciations are natural for me. I must say that I lived in NJ before moving to Ohio and was quite influenced by it (hated Ohio so I resisted pronouncing certain words the way Ohio classmates did for a while) so perhaps that is part of it. I'm not even sure if NJ folks pronounce it differently from Ohioans, though.
posted by Piscean at 5:48 PM on May 3, 2009


If I was deliberately trying to talk in my native accent, no T. Otherwise, maybe, maybe not. My accent shifts to reflect local conditions. I will even speak English with a foreign accent, if I'm dealing with enough of the same sort of foreigners. I get positive feedback on that, to my surprise. It's a natural tendency I've had since I was a kid, but have cultivated it further.
posted by Goofyy at 9:30 AM on May 4, 2009


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