When did the letter “t” become silent in English? Well known and respected American linguists from Noam Chomsky to James McWhorter have shown us just how language will change and morph over time, from one generation to the next, but the suddenly missing “t” really grinds my gears. When was the last time you were in a meeting or listing to someone giving a presentation and they said “that’s an ‘impor-ant”question?’”... or maybe you’ve succumbed to the urge to sound cool and connected and uttered “impor-ant” when talking.
It makes me cringe, actually. Maybe the missing “t” is just another fluency disorder or a speaking tic like using, “uh”, to connect our thoughts when we are speaking extemporaneously, or when people used to throw the word “like” between almost every other word. The lazy omission of the less than micro-second, almost trill-like movement of the tongue totally distorts this word. To say, “impor-ant” has become almost as trendy as coming to a meeting at work with a cup from Starbucks or a bottle of alkaline water. As far as I’m concerned we should just add this mangled word to the pile of other mispronounced words that we laugh about, like “skrimp” for shrimp, “phantom” for fathom, or “ex-presso”, for espresso, and, the ever-popular “libarry” instead of “library.
While we are talking about language, what is with everybody turning what should be definitive statements, their opinions or beliefs into questions by tacking the word right, with a question mark, on the end of whatever they are saying? What may have once been used to get buy-in from children when teaching them right from wrong,
Check out this interview with John McWhorter on NPR - Our Language Has 'Interesting Little Wrinkles,' Linguist Says
I think is now a manipulative messaging tactic to pull the listener into complicit agreement with whatever point is being made. All over cable news, subject matter expert contributors – from professors to White House spokespersons, offering commentary on political and social policy, throw in the, “right?” almost every hour on the hour. Again, cringe. “Right?” has become the conjunction that links one thought to the next and allows the speaker to pull the listening audience in deeper and deeper in artificial agreement - an unwitting accomplice in advancing whatever position being promoted at that moment. No wonder we can feel emotionally exhausted after a persuasive or very passionate presentation, or after watching too much cable news. Some things just aren't right.
The next time you’re in conversation with a friend, making a statement in a meeting, giving a presentation, reclaim the “t” in important. Say it proudly, IMPORTANT! It makes the word stand out when you do and it draws attention to the fact that something actually is important, right?.