LawProse Lesson #101

LawProse Lesson #101

Should the t be sounded in often? ANSWER: Preferably not — if you want to sound educated. (Likewise, refined speakers accent preferably on the first syllable, not the second.) As in words like listen, fasten, and moisten, the t in often is silent: the word is correctly pronounced /off-ən/. In his A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (1926), H.W. Fowler declared that the sounding of the t “is practised by two oddly consorted classes — the academic speakers who affect a more precise enunciation than their neighbours . . . & the uneasy half-literates who like to prove that they can spell . . . .” For a full essay with a history of the word’s pronunciation, see Charles Harrington Elster, The Big Book of Beastly Mispronunciations 354-56 (2d ed. 2005). Sources: Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage 632 (3d ed. 2011). Garner’s Modern American Usage 588 (3d ed. 2009). Wilson Follett, Modern American Usage: A Guide 262 (1966). H.W. Fowler, A Dictionary of Modern English Usage 412-13 (Ernest Gowers ed., 2d ed. 1965)

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