On Devon cream tea and other hot issues

Forget the controversial issues of our times, such as global warming vs economic growth, national security vs individual rights, cultural heritage vs multiculturalism. These are not the things that really get people going at each other. Try Devon or Cornish cream tea or maybe trifle with or without jelly – these are the debates that make people fall out with childhood friends. Nothing like a trivial, irrelevant controversy to make people speak their minds with uttermost conviction and show their true colours. If you are a linguist – or a language teacher- try the –ize vs -ise debate and you are likely to get tempers flaring up in a couple of minutes.

To be honest, I really don’t mind, as long as people use their preferred form consistently. As long as I don’t get a paper where students go from one spelling to another at their own fancy, I am fine with either of them. Personally, I think –ise ‘looks’ better but I have defected to Team Z because I had to get used to the Oxford spelling.  For this reason, I have had people ‘accusing’ me of writing in American English. Perhaps people have joined Team S because they perceived the use of –ise as a reaction to the Americanization of English. Such a perception is reinforced by the adoption of –ise as the house style of influential and reputable UK daily newspapers, such as The Guardian. However, I would suspect that the popularity of -ise is due to the fact that it is simply easier to use it as the default spelling instead of trying to remember which words should be spelt with -ize and which should come with -ise.

There is a quite lot of misinformation around and I have learnt that instead of entering a futile debate about this sort of things, the best course of action is to check it out with the highest authority in the land. When in doubt about language intricacies, go to the OED! Click on the link below to read an Oxford Dictionary blog entry on this.

OxfordWord Blog:  -ize or ise?

The tables below are also from the Oxford Dictionaries Online and may be useful.

Many verbs that end in -ize can also end in -ise: both endings are correct in British English, though you should stick to one or the other within a piece of writing. For example: finalize/finalise; organize/organise; realize/realise. This website spells these words with the -ize ending, but the main dictionary entries for the verbs show that the -ise spelling is also correct.

But there is a small set of verbs that must always be spelled with -ise at the end and never with –ize. Here are the most common ones:

advertise
compromise
exercise
revise
advise
despise
improvise
supervise
apprise
devise
incise
surmise
chastise
disguise
prise (meaning ‘open’)
surprise
comprise
excise
promise
televise

There are also a few verbs which always end in -yse in British English.

analyse
catalyse
electrolyse
paralyse
breathalyse
dialyse
hydrolyse
psychoanalyse

 

By the way, it is known that the proper way of having cream tea is with clotted cream first and then jam!

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