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To a T
I guess I’ve always been a late night worrier. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. Some things need to be worried about, after all, while others are a waste of time. Maybe you know how it is… you wake up at 2:30 a.m., and your mind is seized by some thought, or notion, or problem that will not go away. Unfortunately, it’s hard to be sure, at that time of night, what needs the worry and what doesn’t.

It happened again last night. I must have spent an hour and half fretting about debuccalization. That’s right, debuccalization. Specifically, I was tormented by what I saw as the plague of t-glottalization that seems to be infecting our language.

Debuccalization, as you know, is the sound change a consonant undergoes when its method of articulation is changed. T-glottalization, in particular, is the debuccalization of a perfectly good /t/ into a gagging sound involving a closure of the speaker’s throat.

The word “button”, for instance, is now pronounced “buh-un” by most Americans. That’s bu⟨ʔ⟩on if you’re into phonetic notation. The /t/ all but disappears in the spoken version. The culprit here is laziness. People (including me) find it easier to simply close the glottis than to press the tongue against the front of the palate and then release it. Tuh — it’s just too hard for us, I guess.

I can’t help but feel sorry for the /t/. Even though I have been a party to its disrespecting, I find it alarming that there are two /t/s in button, yet neither of them is being pronounced. Button isn’t the only such word, of course. There’s also flatten, or fla⟨ʔ⟩en, ki⟨ʔ⟩en, ro⟨ʔ⟩en, Manha⟨ʔ⟩an, mu⟨ʔ⟩onchops, and so on. Single /t/s are not spared, either. Mutiny has been mu⟨ʔ⟩ny for a while, and even gluten (a word only recently become commonplace) is now being pronounced glu⟨ʔ⟩en.

What’s worse, the problem has gone beyond mere t-glottalization and expanded into across-the-board debuccalization. “Don’t do it” has become “Dohn do it.” Dot com is now “Dah com.” The path that /t/ is on, I fear, may lead it all the way to terminal lenition. No, I’m not kidding! What concerns me, now and at 2:30 a.m., is that the /t/ has been so weakened by lazy articulation that it is marked for extinction, at least as a spoken letter.

Oh, we still have “butter,” even in the same universe with bu⟨ʔ⟩on, (though we pronounce it “budder”). Twitter has escaped, too, as have titter, tatter, and teeter-totter, but who knows when they will go the way of Christmas, mortgage, often, and gristle?

Think of it: there may come a day when a rat fink will be an ⟨ʔ⟩a⟨ʔ⟩le⟨ʔ⟩ale, when delicate arousal will be ⟨ʔ⟩i⟨ʔ⟩ilashun, and when ⟨ʔ⟩or⟨ʔ⟩elini will be your favorite pasta. All because we’re too lazy to ⟨ʔ⟩ouch our ⟨ʔ⟩eeth with the ⟨ʔ⟩ip of our ⟨ʔ⟩ongue. The letter itself may even come to be pronounced ⟨ʔ⟩e. To the untrained ear, that would sound just like /e/, for God’s sake! It would be chaos — and perhaps a bellwether to the coming collapse of the alphabet itself!

Is it any wonder I lie awake at night?

Please Note: Tim Eagan will read your comments but he is currently not publishing them.

No "new normal" for me, this shit ain't normal.
~ MS, Truckee