The -ize has it

Now I think that’s just fun.  It sounds wrong, of course, but it probably isn’t.  It sounds like “eyes,” which would require a plural verb, “have.”  But -ize is not a noun, like “eyes;” it is a “word-forming element” used to make verbs. As a “word-forming element,” it does not qualify as any of the parts of speech I am familiar with. [1]

If the formulation, “the –ize has it” is wrong, it may be because “the” does not properly apply to the suffix, -ize.  Can “word-forming elements” take definite articles? [2]  Or is it the case that some “word-forming elements” can take definite articles and some can’t.

Let’s take “-ify” as another relevant case.  This is, obviously, also a “verb-forming element” but it is also a verb.  It derives from the Latin facere, “to make.” [3]  So if I “specify,” I “make specific” something that was not specific before.  For our purposes, the case of -ify is difficult because it doesn’t sound like another English word, the way -ize does.  If there were two f’s, it would suggest the slang word “iffy,” meaning uncertain, but there are not two f’s.

In this difficult matter, I am going to rule in my own behalf.  Because it would be proper to say “the word-forming element” I am going to say it is proper to say “the -ize”—meaning “the word-forming element -ize.

Besides, I have gained some courage from Jeff Aronson, a clinical pharmacologist, who wrote an article in the British Medical Journal called “-ize right.”  That might be just a little cheeky for a Brit, when the British use has consistently been -ise instead of –ize, but I take heart from it anyway.

It couragizes me.

[1]  Because it turns nouns into verbs, however, it brings about a very substantial change.  If -ize denotes the new outcome, then we know what the previous condition was.  A personal greeting card, for instance, cannot be “personalized.”  If you can “personalize” it, then it was not personal before.  

[2]  Can newspapers?

[3]  And a host of other meanings.  “To make” is the meaning of interest to this investigation.

About hessd

Here is all you need to know to follow this blog. I am an old man and I love to think about why we say the things we do. I've taught at the elementary, secondary, collegiate, and doctoral levels. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. I have taught political science for a long time and have practiced politics in and around the Oregon Legislature. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. You'll be seeing a lot about my favorite topics here. There will be religious reflections (I'm a Christian) and political reflections (I'm a Democrat) and a good deal of whimsy. I'm a dilettante.
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