I don’t say it’s wrong, exactly, but it is faintly precious, this current British preference for the “s” over the “z.” A preference clearly on display for me these days, working with some writers from England.
They analyse, categorise, characterise, compromise, finalise, optimise, organise, pressurise, rationalise, and realise. If I object, they apologise.
I say “current preference” because, as it turns out, the Brits started with “z” in all those words.
The first example for the verb organize in the Oxford English Dictionary is from around 1425, from an English translation of a treatise on surgery written by the French physician Guy de Chauliac . . . The OED’s earliest example for realize dates from 1611 . . The first recorded use of the verb with an ‘-ise’ spelling in the OED is not until 1755 – over a century later! – Oxford University Press
Citing some references from around the turn of the last century as the basis of its house style—which uses the “-ize” endings wherever possible—the Oxford University Press goes on to note why the “z” was the letter of choice in learned circles.
These early works chose the ‘-ize’ spellings as their preferred forms for etymological reasons: the -ize ending corresponds to the Greek verb endings -izo and –izein.
Yeah, that’s usually how I resolve spelling issues: I go with the etymology. Or, you know, whatever I’m used to doing.
And yet, and yet . . . even though -ize was first out of the chute and has all the street cred that you’d expect, given that alignment with Greek roots, it seems to be fighting a rearguard action across the pond. The site suggests—a bit snarkily, I thought—that the Brits are following the path of least resistance, opting for the -ise ending just because there are some verbs that must be spelled like that.
And so—or so goes the theory, at any rate—they choose to colonise, equalise, fossilise, globalise, hospitalise, materialise, mechanise, minimise, normalise, personalise, philosophise, pressurise, revolutionise, standardize, sterilise, theorise, and (big breath here) visualise, because they have no choice but to advise, chastise, disguise, exercise, incise, and supervise.
Now, wait just a minute. I supervise, too, and yet I use -ize elsewhere without expending any special effort. And who says they have no choice about those other -ise words? Whilst I’m not buying this explanation, I am interested in the item just beside it on the shelf: the notion that it would be simpler to use one protocol. Why did I never think of this before?
So today I apprize you that I am exercizing my rights and raizing a suggestion, even outright advertizing it: an improvized yet wize approach to revizing our spelling protocols. I surmize that it will not lead to anyone’s demize: on the contrary, it will be easy to devize. I trust that you will not despize it. Likewize, I trust you will not chastize me as lacking expertize, or require me to disguize myself in public. At first this change may cause some surprize, but when we all rize to the occasion, that sensation will wear off.
Indeed—when the ize have it—it may even seem like paradize.