Grammar

Why Don’t We Pronounce the T in Mortgage?

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There are plenty of words with silent letters. The word ‘mortgage’ is a perfect example: We don’t pronounce that ‘T’ and there’s a reason.

Lately, I’ve learned a lot about the mortgage process. I’ll explain more on that at a later date.

One of the things that isn’t clear, however, is that pesky T. There it is, right in the center of the word and we just pretend that it’s not there.

We pronounce the word MOR-gidge.

So what gives?

You can trace the word’s roots to Old French. I learned Spanish in school because I felt I’d have more use for that than French. If you took French, you may already have a better picture.

One of my favorite movies is Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. The 1958 thriller told the story of a San Francisco police officer who became obsessed with a woman who died. Hitchcock based the idea for the movie on a novel called D’entre les morts. That translates to “From Among the Dead.”

The T in the French word mort, which means “dead,” is silent.

What does that have to do with a mortgage. Funny story. If you trace the etymology — the origin — of the word, you’ll find that the -gage refers to the Old French word that means pledge.

So the word literally means a “dead pledge.”

Some of the more pessimistic may assume that means that you’ll pay on it until you die. (Or maybe they think it’ll feel that way.)

But the Online Etymology Dictionary came up with a different meaning: it’s the pledge that dies when the mortgage is paid off. (Or when a payment is missed, but we can hope that doesn’t happen.)

The word’s French origin explains that silent T.

And if you have a mortgage, be sure to pay on time!

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.