‘S’ or ‘Z’


Union Jack “S” —- OR —- Stars & Stripes “Z”

My sister brought to my attention this morning that if I really want to be a true Brit and represent my country, I should use the letter ‘s’ in place of the American use of the letter ‘z’ in words like realise and customise and follow the Queen’s English to the letter. She makes a very good point. While I have pondered the thought of going back through my blogs and doing a global replace of ‘z’ for ‘s’, I want people to know (especially my English countrymen) that it was a conscious decision on my part to use the ‘z’ format.

Why? Well in short it is because I simply wanted my American readership to feel more comfortable. While seeing ‘z’ in words like custimize is merely a peculiarity and mild irritation to a Brit, seeing an ‘s’ in a word like customise is more alien to an American.

Besides, I’ve had over seven years to get used to writing ‘ize’ words instead of ‘ise’ words and I am quite comfortable with it now.

I think if there was a big enough groundswell of opinion for me to change back to ‘s’ I would do so, but to me, its a minor concession to make.

Just because an authoritative and standardised English dictionary existed in England approximately 60 years before such a dictionary came to pass in America should not be cause for me to be overly pietistical. Besides, my blogs are courtesy of WordPress, an American company, a fact I am constantly reminded of when I try to “ise” my words and the inbuilt spell checker underlines my words in red, demanding I change them to “ize” words. I do hate red ink on my virtual documents.

I do however struggle enormously with saying and spelling the word aluminum instead of aluminium. For some reason this really seems to go against my upbringing. Thank goodness there aren’t a lot more words in the English language that end in “ium” because if Americans forced me to replace “ium” with “um” I think I’d just have to pack my bags and head back home to Blighty! Instead of helium we would have helum and Kurt Cobain’s Lithum just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

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5 Responses to ‘S’ or ‘Z’

  1. Cribster says:

    As long as I can understand the word I won’t sweat little thngs like that. Unless it’s something like “R U going out 2 nite.” THAT, I find irritating. Internet speak is contributing to the dumbing down of the population.

    Will you supersise your next fast food meal?

  2. Sam Clark says:

    fUn sTuF, tHiS tIpE o sTuF really irks me as well.

  3. GRiSm says:

    The ‘aluminum’ versus ‘aluminium’ thing used to bug me as well, to the extend that I eventually bothered to find out WHY it was different.

    Apparently, Sir Humphry Davy originally called it Aluminum and it was then changed to Aluminium to conform with the other elements ending in -ium.

    Check out http://chemistry.about.com/b/2007/08/15/aluminum-or-aluminium.htm for a coherent description by someone that knows better than me.

    After discovering this, it didn’t bug me so much.

    The one that REALLY gets my goat is Tuna. I was in a Boston deli and my mate Steve asked for a Tuna Sandwich.

    The guy replied “Toona?!”

    Steve replied “Yes, Tuna.”

    The guy replied “Toona?!”

    Steve replied “Yes, Tuna.”

    Repeat ad nauseum… He knew exactly what he was been asked for but seemed determined to argue the point, but it was only he that ended up red faced and angry, Steve remained calm and polite throughout the whole chirade.

    Amused us for days!

  4. Jan says:

    Don’t worry about “izing”: it’s actually British too. As I discovered to my great amazement a few years back, all Oxford University publications (including the OED) use “ize” (or list it first) whereas the Cambridge University Press prefers “ise”. So what has come to be associated with standard British spelling is actually simply the Cambridge version. Having said that, it is true that you don’t have the choice in the States: they’re all Oxfordians.

  5. Celebrate differences. It’s rather like everyone north of the old Mason-Dixon line of the state is correct and everyone below it in the one gigantic state called ‘The South ‘ is incorrect, backward and inbred. Folks simply are different with different experiences, backgrounds and pronunciations. My Spanish friends have the same thing going on in their language as what New York Puerto Ricans call a ‘snow cone’ in Spanish is different from what a Spanish speaker from the west or Mexico would call it–and Cuban Spanish is more nasal with a built in lisp. If one knows the history of these differences it makes the world more interesting. When I hear the different accents in the US I hear in them a history of how they developed and not a right or wrong regional divide. Allowing oneself to get a headache over what is obvious cultural differences are futile, divisive and sometimes a sort of self righteous puerility.

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