Consider the following pairs of words for a moment.
Roll them over your tongue and maybe even say them out loud a few times.
It’s OK. Your cubicle farm buddies won’t notice (too much).
If you’re like me (and, really, you should be) you pronounced the ‘t’ in Oft & Soft and dropped it in Often & Soften.
Based on the pronunciation of my wife and daughter, only Soften deserves the dropped ‘t’; Often is pronounced ‘OFF-TEN’ or so they say.
Being the diligent blogger that I am (natch) I took to the internet.
Turns out we’re all right:
During the 15th century English experienced a widespread loss of certain consonant sounds within consonant clusters, as the (d) in handsome and handkerchief, the (p) in consumption and raspberry, and 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, peopleâ€™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.
So dropped consonant clusters have been around for a long time (in English) but some of those sounds have crept back in to spoken usage with the advent of more literate (if not educated) readers. Got it.
I can see how this would happen but I’d hasten (get it?) to pronounce all those pesky ‘t’s all the time. It would get tedious (groan).
You wouldn’t say LIS-TEN or FAS-TEN, so don’t say OFF-TEN. OK, kiddies?
One brief pronunciation clarification: I do find myself shortening the second syllable in these types of words to just a nasal consonant ‘n’ [n].
Never like orphan.
Enjoy your Tuesday!