Strange New Speech Pattern

For the last several months I’ve noticed people, usually of a certain age (in their teens and twenties and sometimes beyond) adopting what seems to me to be an odd speech pattern. It is the dropping or swallowing of the second “t” as in butter, letter, and batter. It’s an old announcer’s trick to change the latter “p” to the letter “b” and the like, but this is different. Words sound as if they are being swallowed half-way through. Why is this? From where does this come? I’ve heard it in different parts of the country and I noticed it during the announcements on the fights by flight crews from various parts of the country. Is this a fad? Does it mean anything?

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  1. Not sure what you mean by “second t”. Why not both t’s? Are you saying that batter would sound like “badder”, or “ba’er”, or something else?

    I remember when I lived in the U.K. for a few years, we knew this dear little old lady who once complained to me about American pronunciation: “How can American children possibly learn that the word ‘water’ has a ‘T’ in it? All you say is ‘Wadder, wadder, wadder’ all the time!” I didn’t have the presence of mind to ask her how English kids could possibly learn that “Water” has an ‘R’ in it.

  2. No, it’s not softening the second “t” it’s swallowing it. Maybe it’s a little like a cockney pronunciation of “water” as opposed to a posh English “water,” where, as your acquaintance noted, the “t” is enunciated clearly. In fact, in the dialect I’m hearing the second half of these words is swallowed.

  3. Yes, I think Cockney aspiration is what I was trying to get at with the ‘ in “ba’er”. I’m not sure I’ve heard that around. I’ll keep an ear open.

    Meanwhile listen around and see how many people you can find mysteriously dropping Ls, like pronouncing “children” as “cheodren”…

  4. Is this perhaps related to Estuary English? I have heard it from post-boomers. English is my fourth language, and thus, I am still confused on how Received Pronunciation of English exactly is done. Living in the United States did not help the cause.

    Incidentally, RubeRad, the dropping of “L” and vocalizing it into “o” would be more West English.

  5. Mockney [sic], at least, would also turn “children” into “chiwdren”. Yet, it would surprise me if either the dulcet tones of Bow Bells or the rolling vowels of the Estuary have swum the deep blue water to the land across the water.

    In terms of missing ells, one of my pet hates is “vunerable”. It’s “vuLnerable”!

  6. While in Philly going to WTS, I notice that the locals put a pronounced accent on the letter ‘t’ in certain words. They would say “What a beauTiful day” and ” You have a good atTitude”. This was true regardless of the individual educational background. Some of the homegrown professors at WTS spoke like this. Naturally they all thought my Southern way of speaking sounded funny.

  7. One of the things I loved about HBO’s The Wire was the way they faithfully reproduced the Midatlantic accent, which I think is strongest in B’more, but can range through Deleware and up to Philly. What is a plain “O” for everybody else, morphs into an almost german O-umlaut: “C’mon oever!”

  8. One of the ministers I know consistently drops the initial ‘r’ in the word ‘frustrated’. “God is not a fustrated God…”
    No accent in this case. He needs to learn how to correctly pronounce words.

  9. Do you mean the “glottal stop”? In the UK this has gradually made its way north from London (cockney influence) with the spread of rap culture. Over the years my wife, who is a teacher of teenagers, has seen the change here in the Midlands. I would be amazed, though, if it had made its way to CA!

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