Many didn't have the educational opportunities and there was a long period when teachers were instructed not to worry about spelling etc.
And Often can be pronounced correctly with or without the T. I think I am right in saying that the T didn't get pronounced until the 1800's. The Posh tend to say Of'n. I think that I say often but I have tested myself and because of my glottal stop it does sound like of'n.
Also linguistically folk will use both saying "I of'n go to the shops" whereas they might say "How often do you go to the shops".
Strange animal is linguistics!!
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