WOTD Defense: Anticlima(c)tic

I really, really enjoy The Morning Stream.  If you haven't heard of it, it's a morning show at 8 am Mountain Time (10 am ET), done by Scott Johnson and Brian Ibbot of the Frogpants Studios Network.  In addition to the livestream, it is also put out as a podcast for those who can't listen in the morning.  It's the perfect background stuff to put in the background as I do other, usually undemanding, things, like check on my podcast site, fill in dictionary entries on Aeruyo, or even do important but tediously boring paperwork.  Do be prepared for long episodes, though -- especially on Thursdays.

That said, I would like to say I hate, hate, HATE the Word of the Day segment at the beginning of the show, where they choose a word, usage of a word, or a variant of a word and decide to ban it.  You see, I am a bit of a linguistics geek, and as such I almost always take the descriptive approach to language -- I do not see alternate variations as "wrong".  In fact, they are often interesting in their own right.

Don't get me wrong, everything Scott and Brian do is all in good fun, they are taking a common trope in the media of making highly personal and emotionally charged usage advice and having fun with it.  I have no doubt that they don't actually expect the words they "ban" to disappear from the lexicon.  However, there words they discuss often come from interesting processes.  So I thought maybe taking a moment to discuss where a word comes from might be more interesting than this simple "Oh, man, I hate that word soo muuuch!"

So let's get to it

The Word of the Day today is a phonological variant of anticlimactic, /ˌæn.ti.klajˈmæ.tɪk/, that is, anticlimactic pronounced without a /k/ before the second <t>.  I think the argument against it involves it being confused with *anticlimatic, which I am not certain exists as a common word, though it could conceivably be created with the same rules that created anticlimactic.  I would argue, however, that given what I would guess of meanings for *anticlimatic, context will very easily clear up the distinction in almost all cases.

What is happening in anticlima(c)tic is just a simplification of consonant clusters.  /kt/ is a somewhat difficult cluster, consisting of two consecutive stops pronounced in two very different points of articulation (places in the mouth).  It only makes sense that some speakers would simplify this difficult cluster by deleting one of the sounds.  This is fairly common in English, given its very large number of allowable clusters -- its the reason you might delete the second /f/ in fifth or not pronounce the plural marker -s in a complex word like ghosts or strengths, especially in running speech.

In summary, given the fact that English speakers regularly simplify difficult clusters with no problem, and the fact that the alternate pronunciation of anticlimactic with a simplified cluster is not likely to cause confusion, I would say that this word does not need to be banned.  In fact, in the future I predict one of two things -- either the simplified variant of anticlimactic will be the norm, or, if the more complex form persists far in the future, the /k/ will perhaps be dropped and replaced by another distinction -- perhaps the /t/ will geminate, or lengthen, or perhaps English will develop a tone system like Chinese languages have, with the historical /k/ affecting the tone of the previous syllable.

In short -- don't ban this word pronunciation!