Sunday, May 18, 2008

-ize write

To the second rancke of reprehenders, that complain of my boystrous compound wordes, and ending my Italionate coyned verbes all in ize, thus I replie: That no winde that blowes strong but is boystrous ; no speech or wordes of any power or force to confute or perswade, but must be swelling and boystrous. For the compounding of my wordes, therein I imitate rich men, who, having store of white single money together, convert a number of those small little sentes into great peeces of gold, such as double pistoles and portugues. Our English tongue, of all languages, most swarmeth with the single money of monosillables, which are the onely scandal of it. Bookes written in them, and no other, seeme like shop-keepers’ boxes, that containe nothing else saue halfe-pence, three-farthings, and two pences. Therefore what did me I, but, having a huge heape of those worthlesse shreds of small English in my pia maters purse, to make the royaller shew with them to men’s eyes, had them to the compounders immediately, and exchanged them foure into one. and others into more, according to the Greek, French, Spanish, and Italian.

Thomas Nashe, Introduction to Sydney’s Astrophel & Stella Christ’s Tears Over Jerusalem 1593.

Jeopardize. This is a modern word which we could easily do without, as it is neither more nor less than its venerable progenitor to jeopard, which is greatly preferred by all careful writers.

Alfred Ayres, The Verbalist, 1895, p.109

jeopardize. Richard Grant White called jeopardize “a foolish and intolerable word” in 1879, and he was not the only one who thought so. A popular view among American critics in the 19th century was that the proper verb was jeopard, an older word which, according to the OED, had fallen into disuse by the end of the 1600s. The first record of jeopardize is from 1646, but there is no further evidence of its use until it turns up in Noah Webster’s American Dictionary in 1828 with the note, “This is a modern word used by respectable writers in America, but synonymous with jeopard, and therefore useless.” Useless or not, jeopardize became increasingly common, both in America and in Great Britain, as attempts to resurrect jeopard met with predictable failure. The voices of protest against jeopardize, all of which have been American, began to die down by about 1900, and it was not long before this minor controversy was entirely forgotten. It has now been many decades since anyone found anything wrong with jeopardize.

Merriam-Webster‘s Dictionary of English Usage, 1994, pp.570f.

-ize; -ise. But neologisms ending in -ize are generally to be discouraged, for they are invariably ungainly and often superfluous. Thus we have no use for accessorize, artificialize, , audiblize, cubiclize, fenderize (= to fix a dented fender), funeralize, ghettoize, Mirandize, nakedize, and so on. Careful writers are wary of new words formed with this suffix.

Bryan A. Garner, A Dictionary of Modern American Usage, 1998, p.389.

Addendum. Thanks to Conrad over at the simply marvelous blog Varieties of Unreligious Experience (link) for the Nashe attribution correction; see commentary hereunder.]


Saturday, May 3, 2008

a budget of grammatical peeves

A discussion I had recently online about what peevologist meant (see this Wishydig blog entry for a discussion of its origin) revealed to me a great truth about soi disant snoots: they are as lacking in their quivering aggregate of absolutist rules of “grammar” as they are in their erudition and scholarship. (Well, perhaps I’d already had an inkling of that.) Their Weltanschauung causes them to hound anybody who uses a word with a slightly different meaning to the one which their grammar teacher beat into them, e.g., decimate to mean destroy. Any whiff of semantic drift causes the customary ejaculation “And look at how gay was co-opted! It used to mean merry or joyful!” Some say it still does in some contexts. I usually try to explain to them that gay has had a long and varied semantic drift since emigrating from Normandy to England about a millennium ago.

From Partridge A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (in two volumes), Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1961:

Gay. (Of women) leading an immoral, or a harlot’s, life: 1825, Westmacott (OED), In C. 20, coll., on verge of SE.—2. Slightly intoxicated; ob. C.19–20; Perhaps orig. a euphemism.—3. Impudent, impertinent, presumptious: US (—1899), anglicized in 1915 by PG Wodehouse, OED (Sup.).

Also, gay house ‘brothel’, gay in the arse ‘(Of women) loose’, to lead a gay life ‘to live immorally’, the gay instrument ‘the male member’, gaying it ‘sexual intercourse’.

The grammar mavens’ll have nothing of the sort, thankee. They’ll blink myopically and tell you that though they have nothing against homosexuals personally, but they do want their word back. Yeah, right. Why are similarly polysemous words like symbology not being ranted about? I count at least three meanings of the word: (1) The study of symbols; (2) the use of symbols; and (3) a collection or system of symbols. And don’t even ask them about mole or put.