The ‘ise’ have it

There’s a vicious rumour going around that using ‘ize’ spellings (for example, realize) is somehow ‘not British’ and that the only correct form is ‘ise’.

If you believe that ‘ize’ is an Americanism and that ‘ise’ is British, then there’s only one way to put this – YOU ARE WRONG.

If you’d like to disagree with me please do so in the comments for this article, but you may want to read the rest of this first and check my sources, which naturally, are impeccable!

I have the backing of the Oxford English Dictionary in this matter. They note that ‘ize’ spellings have been used in British English since the 15th century for words like realize, finalize and organize. The ‘ise’ spelling is a later affectation, introduced in the mid-1700s. The reason for the introduction of ‘ise’ could be because there is also a distinct set of words which always end ‘ise’ – for example, exercise, that have different etymological roots. Using ‘ise’ for everything is therefore just laziness. To this day, the OED still prefer ‘ize’ endings in British English.

I’m pleased that many psychological luminaries (or at least, their publishers) appear to agree with me. For example, I have the second edition of Alex Haslam’s book, ‘Psychology in Organizations – The Social Identity Approach’ sat on my desk as I’m typing this and all of the psychology textbooks published by the Open University to accompany their undergraduate degree consistently use ‘ize’.

However, this fundamentalist approach to spelling cuts no ice with a number of significant others in my life. For example:

  • My friends and family, who took great delight in pointing out that I’d used ‘realize’ in The Imposter blog post. I’ve bowed to the inevitable pressure and changed the spelling to ‘realise’.
  • The folk who mark my essays – who tell me that ‘ize’ is wrong and that I should use British English instead.
  • My clients at work who believe that ‘ize’ is an Americanism. They often send me snarky comments about ‘ize’ when they review the reports I produce for them and as they’re paying, I’ll happily spell words any way they’d like me to.

So, even though I’m right and they’re wrong (well, at least, not as right) I’ve decided to give up the battle. The ‘ise’ have it. Life’s too short to be all fundamentalist about spelling.

Unless it’s a battle about the misuse of apostrophes. That’s definitely not one that I’m going to give up on easily …

This article was originally written for the University of Leicester Student Blogs, 28th November 2013.

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