The Grammarphobia Blog

T ceremonies

Q: For over a year, my 7-year-old son has been dropping his t’s at the end of words (cat = ca and what = wha!). My husband and I moved from Ireland to New York City’s suburbs nine years ago. Is the dropping of t’s a regional phenomenon? Or is this the result of my son’s hearing both Irish and American accents? Maybe he’s just doing it to annoy us! Neither his teacher nor the school speech therapist has done anything about it. Should I continue my crusade to correct him or should I back down?

A: I’d bet the dropping of t’s that you refer to is a regionalism, a local accent feature that your son has picked up from people around him.

My husband, a New Yorker, pronounces the word “bottle” with a blip in the middle where the t’s should go—roughly like “bah-ul.” I’ve noticed that many Easterners do this. I grew up in the Midwest (Iowa), where many people pronounce “bottle” as “boddle.” They also skip over the t’s in words like “twenty” and “plenty,” rendering them as “twunny” and “plunny.”

As for what you should do, I’m not qualified to say. But I’m curious about why your son’s teacher doesn’t correct his pronunciation. Have you asked? You might also ask both the teacher and the speech therapist whether you ought to continue to correct him, or whether they think this is a childhood imitation of his peers that he will simply outgrow.

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