When someone starts a sentence “I’m not being …”, they always are

May 2, 2013 § Leave a comment

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Many people visiting the World (non-US) version of our website ask us why we spell words such as realize, finalize, and organize with ‘-ize’ spellings, rather than ‘-ise’. There’s a widespread belief that these spellings belong only to American English, and that British English should use the ‘-ise’ forms instead, i.e. realise, finalise, and organise.

In fact, the ‘-ize’ forms have been in use in English spelling since the 15th century: they didn’t originate in American use, even though they are now standard in US English.  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 brayne after þe lengþ haþ 3 ventriclez, And euery uentricle haþ 3 parties & in euery partie is organized [L. organizatur] one vertue.

The OED’s earliest example for realize dates from 1611: it’s taken from a definition in A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues, a bilingual dictionary written by Randle Cotgrave:

Realiser, to realize, to make of a reall condition, estate, or propertie; to make reall.

The first recorded use of the verb with an ‘-ise’ spelling  in the OED is not until 1755 – over a century later!  read more

PHOTOGRAPH: Mike McGregor

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