Electric Prayer

The Liturgy of the Hours, the Mass, and other things.

-ise and -ize

Posted by universalis on 8 August 2011

Since Universalis contains text in two languages (plus Greek), it seems worth setting out our house style in detail.

  1. Universalis is in English.
  2. American-language texts such as the New American Bible are kept in American and not translated.

As for the spelling of English:

  1. Universalis follows the house style shown below.
  2. Text from external sources, such as the Grail psalms and the Jerusalem Bible, are spelt and punctuated in the same way as their sources, even when this is incorrect.

-ise and -ize

Historically, words coming from Greek, and to a lesser extent from Latin, have kept the ‘-ize’ form of the original. It is as wrong to write ‘baptise’ as it is to write ‘analyze’ and for the same reasons: it contradicts the original.

Words coming directly from French have kept the ‘-ise’ spelling of the French.

As for the spelling of the verb-forming suffix, this has always been ‘-ize’, as a check of any pre-war book (and many post-war ones) will show.

For more detail, see the Oxford English Dictionary (which goes for -ize always) or Fowler’s Modern English Usage, which makes more detailed distinctions. Partridge, like the OED, goes for -ize throughout, especially when new words are being coined from existing adjectives.

At some point in the 1960s, a strong American influence, coupled with widespread ignorance of the origins of words, began to change the spelling of English. People began to think that all words with -ize were American spellings, and accordingly started spelling them with -ise instead, leading to absurdities such as ‘baptise’ (already mentioned), ‘Medise’, and so on. Some dictionaries started to reflect this trend. Chambers’ does so, for instance, while the Oxford University Press holds to the older tradition.

What all this adds up to is this: if you see a word in Universalis that ends in -ize (and it is in our text, not copied from any of our sources), it is Greek, not American.

(If you’re interested in some relentless detail on the subject, read this blog post).

3 Responses to “-ise and -ize”

  1. Anonymous said

    Any chance of having Universalis Liturgy of the Hours in Spanish? Would truly appreciate it.
    Ruskin Piedra, C.Ss.R.

  2. Paul Crilley said

    It would be great if Universalis liturgy of the hours paid for download could be accessed with the original Latin – side by side.

    I listen when I can to the sung office regular broadcasts from the vatican – (lauds. vespers and compline) and also on the vatican radio liturgies website.


    I am not a latin scholar at all and sometimes struggle to match the latin chants with your english texts.

    Otherwise, thanks for a great service

    Paul C

    • Diffal said

      Now that would be great. An option for saying the office in the original latin or even with side by side translations. I know i occasionally use the latin when I’m not keen on the english translation provided for certain phrases(english translation in the hardback edition I might add, i love your app).

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