The Dreaded Silent T

For the past few years, I have written a sort-of annual offseason post regarding trendy buzzwords and corporate jargon that I find very irritating. It’s not really racing related, but sometimes I use this platform just for venting. I had every intention of doing so this past February, but I never really compiled a list or jotted it down whenever I heard a new phrase that made me cringe.

We are now in what I call a mini-offseason, a four-week stint between the first and second rounds of the NTT IndyCar Series schedule and I do have something remotely related to a trendy fashion that I’d like to get off of my chest. With the season about to pick up again next weekend, I figured I’d better do it now.

A couple of years ago, my local sports-talk radio show that I listen to each morning got a new producer – you know, the person that sits behind the glass but still talks regularly to the point where the two-person show is really a three-person show. This new producer was a 24 year-old girl who had just graduated with a master’s degree in sports broadcasting from Syracuse. So she was quite young, but obviously very intelligent.

She’s actually quite sharp and I enjoy her takes on a variety of sports topics. But she has one annoying trait that alerted me to the fact that many young people share the same trait…the silent T.

As you can imagine, there is usually a lot of time on this show devoted to our local NFL team, the Tennessee Titans. The problem is, every time she pronounces the name of our team – I cringe.

Most people around here are from the south and pronounce the name of the team as TIGHT-uns. A few people go overboard and annunciate each hard T, which sounds like TIGHT-TINS. I had never really noticed that before, until one game we attended and the woman behind us kept yelling “Let’s go, Tight-tins!” It was sort of like when the second-string news anchors of the 90s would try to speak so distinctly, and refer to “President Bill Clint-tin”. It was a little annoying, but I just wrote it off as them trying to sound more sophisticated than they really were.

But until this new young producer uttered her pronunciation of the Titans a couple of years ago, I had never heard anyone say it that way. Since then, I’ve noticed her and a lot of others in her age group have spread this pronunciation rule to other words. When I hear it, I want to go through the roof.

She drops the second T altogether, and puts the emphasis on the second syllable where it comes out as Tie-ENS. It almost sounds like she is trying to talk about a tight-end on the team. The two regular hosts have begun making fun of her on the air, for her pronunciation of Titans. They are both a little older. One is in his thirties and is a Nashville native. The other is near fifty and hails from Michigan. It doesn’t seem to be a regional thing, but I am beginning to think it is an age-related thing.

She thinks that her way of saying it is proper and all of her generation would say it the same way. Both hosts say it like I do…TIGHT-uns, but she thinks that is a redneck southern way to say it.

At first, I was thinking this was just a goofy pronunciation on her part. But the Titans beat writer is on that show a couple of times a week and he says it like she does….Tie-ENS. It’s mind-boggling.

Now, I’ve started paying attention to newscasters and commercial voice-overs, both locally and nationally. I’m finding that it is suddenly becoming a thing to make Ts silent, but it does seem to be from people under the age of thirty. Here are a few examples I’ve heard recently

Important – This is a word I thought only had one possible way to pronounce. Now if I’m being honest, I make the first T a little soft to where it almost sounds like a D, but I make the second T a hard T. It comes off as im-POR-dant. But now I’m hearing a silent T for the first T and either a very soft T or a silent T on the second T. Strangely enough, it comes out as im-POR-an. You think I’m crazy? Start listening and paying close attention. You’ll hear it.

Night Owl – Once again, I always thought the word “night” in this term had one pronunciation, but I’ve heard it where someone is referred to as a nigh owl. Why?

Button/Cotton – We were watching a movie a couple of weeks ago and the female character was trying to button her top, but she claimed she had lost a Bud-in. Likewise, I was watching a You Tube instructional video about how to clean something. He suggested using a Coddin ball. Even people in the comments were asking “what is a coddin ball?”

Tighten – I pronounce this word the same way I do the Nashville NFL team. Unfortunately, in the same You Tube video I referenced above – the guy talking does too. He recommended to Tie-EN the screws when finished.

Gluten-Free – Yep, you guessed it. The way I’ve heard it recently is glue-IN free, which to me gives it a whole new meaning.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. You probably think I’ve lost my mind to even bring this up, much less to devote an entire post to it. My wife, Susan, sometimes think I’m off my rocker by obsessing about certain things; but on this one she totally agrees with me. While sitting watching television, if we hear a silent T – we will both point it out almost in unison. I’m telling you, start listening for it. You won’t have to listen very long before you’ll realize I’m right.

My question is…when did a hard T become so offensive? Why is it a redneck southern thing to pronounce the word “Titans” as TIGHT-uns instead of Tie-ENS? Do these T-droppers think they sound more educated? I think Tie-ENS sounds absurd and makes you sound like you have a diction problem.

Recently, the new producer (who is no longer that new anymore) has been given her own show on Saturday mornings, in addition to her producer duties on weekday mornings. I listened to her show while in the shower last Saturday. She is now 26 and as I said, I like her and really appreciate most of her takes. But half the show was devoted to discussing the Titans in free-agency. I got so distracted every time she said Tie-ENS, I lost track of what she was talking about.

Before you think I’ve completely lost it in my advancing age, start listening to radio commercials and TV broadcasts. You will be surprised how this new phenomenon of the silent Ts has become so prevalent.

Aren’ you thankful tha the IndyCar season is abou to resume for good nex weekend, so I can stick to racing? Me oo.

George Phillips

27 Responses to “The Dreaded Silent T”

  1. I have noticed tha oo. How I long for the old racing days of A. J. Foy and Mario Andre-e

  2. Jack in Virginia Says:

    I first noticed this with our Grand daughter’s pronunciation of button, as buh-en. She’s done it all her life, and I have no idea where she got it from. But I’ve made fun of her pronunciation since she was two.

  3. We are pretty lax with our language in America. Especially in Indi’napolis…

  4. This isn’t all that new. I taught high school speech in the 90’s and I first noticed it with the pronounciation of President Clinton’s name. Kids would pronounce it “Bill Clin-EN,” which drove me nuts. They dropped the “t” in other words as well but this is most memorable. It was a slangy way of speaking, almost like a “Valley Girl” slang and I noticed it more (unscientifically) with the girls than the boys.

  5. billytheskink Says:

    What fun would it be if we all had the same accent? I suppose we may find out soon enough, as the internet will likely largely finish off what radio and television started killing: regional terms and pronunciations.

    It can be hard, though, to change the way you pronounce something if you have done it a certain way for a long time, both out of habit and because it may never sound quite right to you. I grew up near the Brazos River, and when I was young pretty much everyone pronounced it with a short A in this Texas English-ified way: BRA-zus. Younger people and folks who have moved to the area from outside the region, however, pronounce it in a more “correct” Spanish way: BRAH-zose. That’s never going to sound right to me, even if it is closer to what the word sounds like in its language of origin.

  6. Welcome to the world of millennials. We’re getting old. “Now you kids get off my lawn and slow down!”. Lol

  7. I’ve never noticed this before. If I do now, I solely blame Mr. George Phillips for bringing it to my attention! haha

  8. George,
    This has been going on for quite some time now and it’s definitely NOT a regional thing…. it’s an age thing. The first time I noticed it was at least ten years ago when I heard someone say it was very impor’ant to how to do something or other. I really dread these folks passing this on to their kids (the “t” is silent) or even worse… the online webster’s dictionary adopts it as a way to pronounce certain words…. Other words I’ve been hearing for a long time include moun’ain, resis’ant and expec’ed. This drives me crazy(er)! We REALLY need an Indycar race… SOON!

  9. Chris Lukens Says:

    In the radio business hard consonants, such as P, T, K and some others are known as “Plosives.” To pronounce these consonants correctly you must expel your breath forcefully. This causes the microphone to pop or snap which usually irritates the listener . Why anyone would avoid a plosive outside a radio studio is beyond me.

  10. an
    pronounced TY-tans

  11. Hi y’all! (Ggggrrrhhh)

    The one that really gets me is “ off of “
    He drove off of the track. Nope he drove off the track.
    I hear this all the time now from many sources. It’s plain wrong.

  12. Drives me bat s&/t crazy. I have been hearing this for a couple years now. I’m from Colorado where the millennials say (mountains) mou-enz. When I hear it I cringe and immediately know the person is 30 or under. I have no idea how someone gets a paid professional job talking like that. It immediately makes them sound ignorant, and lazy. It’s pure laziness in my mind that morphed into modern everyday colloquial speech.

    • You just had to go remind me of that… I don’t hear that too often in Florida since we don’ have any mou’enz here. They forget the ns too!!!

  13. Did you know that in my na’ive (just imagine that double-meaning!) tongue of German, the silent r is a thing?
    Over the years, my dad and I had a lot of fun mocking the silent-r pronounciation 😉

    The eRR then gets replaced by the air (or rather, the ai’ ).

  14. S0CSeven Says:

    Listen to me, there is no such month as Febuary …
    It’s Feb-RU-ary. Stop dropping the first R.

  15. Just be glad you are not from Peabody Massachusetts.

  16. Joseph Mudrak Says:

    You should probably open a dictionary before you criticize someone else’s pronunciation.

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