I am actually not much of a word snob though I do try to watch my P’s and Q’s when it comes to spelling and the proper use of language. My folks have always been big readers and have great respect for the written word, so I think it is what you would call a family trait, or CURSE … I’m not sure which? If I send a fast e-mail or scribble out a Post-It note to someone and I inadvertently misspell a word, or make some other grammatical ‘faux pas’, I will literally CRINGE at the thought for days after.
Honestly it is not an ‘ego’ thing since most people who know me, do not have extraordinarily high language expectations from a bonafide ‘Ya Ya’, with the I.Q. of a saltine anyway. You see just there, I am not above making up my own words (actually my father’s word), crafting glorious run-on sentences, or using non-standard English to make a point even if obscure. It’s just that when it comes to communication, I DO CARE to get it right someday, as opposed to my lack of mastery of truly difficult things like ‘loading a dishwasher’, ‘working an ATM’, or ‘setting an alarm clock’.
So what sparked all this verbal dysentery (my 8th grade science teacher’s pithy assessment of my gift for relentless self-expression) was simply the word ‘OFTEN’. When I was young, I was taught to say this word with a silent ‘T’, therefore the pronunciation is the soft-sounding “ AUFF-EN”. As I have aged and dried up, like old cheese and watered-down wine , it appears that more and more people are pronouncing this word with the hard ‘T’ sound as “AUFF – TEN”. Now you may say ‘who cares’, but to a ‘melon-head’ of my ilk – this is of great importance indeed.
I mean for wordsmiths, this is on the level of ‘big deals’ that equates to religious folks, debating that Jesus just knew Mary Magdalene as the ‘Apostles of Apostles’, or the ‘J-man’ ‘KNEW’ Mary after one too many ‘goat-sacks’ of Gallo. Hey I know pronouncing ‘Often’ correctly won’t prove I’m a Saint or a trollop, but it sure will change how I pronounce other verby words like ‘Listen’ ‘Unfasten’, ‘Hasten’, &‘Soften’. Hmmm, suddenly I’m flushed and feeling a little spent. if I smoked, I think I just earned a cigarette? Guess that clears that up – I’m definitely a ‘soft-T’ Trollop.