The Compulsive Copyeditor

October 3, 2018

The Ize-ation of English

Filed under: language degenerating,sensory qualities of words — amba12 @ 9:26 am

Or should that be the ize-ization?

The example that came to my attention this morning was “acclimatize,” where “acclimate” would do just fine. More examples? Put them in the comments, please. The august yet homey Strunk and White find perhaps the prototype, the Patient Zero of this plague:

-ize.  Do not coin verbs by adding this tempting suffix. Many good and useful verbs do end in -ize: summarize, fraternize, harmonize, fertilize. But there is a growing list of abominations: containerize, prioritize, finalize, to name three. Be suspicious of -ize: let your ear and your eye guide you. Never tack -ize onto a noun to create a verb. Usually you will discover that a useful verb already exists. Why say “utilize” when there is the simple, unpretentious word use

This parasitic little syllable, which inserts itself needlessly into good, clean verbs like a transposon into a genome, seems to make bureaucrats happy. It is one of those syllables that makes a word longer and more machinelike (jazz it up with a chainsaw! Not enough noise here!) and so, more important-sounding and intimidating (here come the Hell’s Angels!). That’s the only explanation I can think of for voluntarily making the sound of a word uglier and more technological.

The syllable has its uses, though it is never pretty. I remember somebody once joking that if to put someone in the hospital was to hospitalize, then to throw someone in a canal should be to canalize. But when a verb already does its job just fine in its smaller, plainer, smoother body, why mechanize it? Why add a chrome tailpipe? It’s as if we’re so infatuated with machines as evidence of our own power that we won’t rest until we’ve turned every horse into a motorcycle and every bird into a drone.



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