Tuesday, 7 June 2005

Reprise: -ize and -ise

Since I'm a big language usage buff, I'll make a comment inspired by this letter to the Straits Times this morning that my friend sent on to me:
The Certificate of Marriage issued by the Registry of Marriages spells 'solemnise' as 'solemnize'. I believe this is American English and is not the form used here.

To verify this, I checked the Internet. Only American websites use 'solemnize'.

The Government should take the lead in ensuring correct English usage.
Putting aside the implication that American English is somehow not "correct", I'll note the following: while -ise for suffixes is the more standard UK English usage, the Oxford English Dictionary - about as authoritative a British source as it gets - uses -ize, as it's etymologically closer to the suffix's roots (Greek -izo). The argument for -ise is it makes for pleasing standardisation with other words that are always spelt "-ise": surprise, reprise, concise, precise, etc. Which is to say - whichever one you use is not a grammatical issue, as long as you're consistent.

The sad grammar-geek part is that I knew all that off the top of my head. But for proof, here's what the OED editors say - noting also that "-ize" is also the form used by the Encyclopedia Britannica, as well as the former Times style.



Did you write in in reply?

I found one of the other letters more interesting. You know, the one where the redundant inclusion of the words 'and stool' on a sign in a food centre is apparently an egregious error which 'should be rectified as soon as possible'.


Feel free to write in to make the point if you want...

Actually if we want to take eliminating redundancies all the way, the phrase "free gift" is another one to look at.


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