Sounding the T or not?

This is a question Jimmie Fane, a character in Kingsley Amis’s novel The Biographer’s
(1996), asks his biographer Gordon Scott-Thomson. The question relates to the word often, and he asks:

How do you pronounce O, F, T, E, N? Sounding the T or not? (1996:68).

Language is often an issue in Amis’s novels, as in this one. Fane is decribed on the blurb as

an unashamed snob, has many pet hates, including younger men with moustaches and trendy pronunciation. Scott-Thomson, however, is extremely attached to his own moustache and not so particular about his use of language.

The biographer with the double-barrelled name is also made to use a split infinitive (“what was in your mind when you agreed to not merely let me write something about you”, 1996: 87), and other questions of pronunciation come up: “Gordon would have expected to be asked how he pronounced CONTROVERSY or IDEAL” (1996:87).

These features – the pronunciation of often, controversy and ideal – were evidently considered sociolinguistically salient at the time (though I’m not really sure what the problem is with ideal). Are they still so today? Do people still vary between OFTEN and OFFEN?

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