Thursday, July 30, 2015

From Jerry Springer to a Coffee Shop Near You: Glottal Stop Pronunciations

I may be guilty at times of being the language equivalent of the fist-waving biddy shrieking at children to stay off his lawn, and so it continues today, this time with pronunciation and with “kids today” squarely in the cross-hairs over the employment of a glottal stop in two-syllable words whose syllabic break occurs over a double-T.

An excellent test word for this is button. It is properly pronounced with the double-T being articulated by the tip of the tongue touching the roof of the mouth and then staying there as vocal vibrations are quickly sent upward into the nasal cavities to produce the N sound.

The youthful mispronunciation involves a glottal stop instead of the tongue touching the roof of the mouth, followed by the syllable “in,” which makes the overall phonetic pronunciation resemble “buh in.” The most famous example of this glottal stop pronunciation is not from a double-T, but rather a single D. It is the Jerry Springer guest’s signature prelude to a fight, “Oh no you di – in’t.”

This pronunciation seems present in all races, nationalities and sexual identities, but I notice it chiefly among Americans too young to be president, and I recommend against it enthusiastically.