Recently I came across these -ize words:
engineerize, germanize, islamicize, marbleize, muslimize, narcotize, pidginize, winterize.
They kind of annoy me. There are loads of very good verbs with the suffix -ize but it feels like everything’s in danger of getting -ized and it makes me uneasy. I’m worried that soon I won’t be able to feel uneasy. I’ll have to be uneasy-ized.
We’re used to lots of -ize words. Localize it, fetishize it, feminize it and I’m happy. I don’t much like burglarize because burgle will do.
When -ize attaches itself to nouns that need to get active I can see the point. Larry Page and Sergey Brin wanted to get money from their new internet search engine and it’s easier to say “We wanted to monetize Google” than “We wanted to get money from Google.”
But sometimes even if -ize is convenient it’s not very….elegant. ‘Winterize’, for example. You may need to protect your yucca plant from frost and snow. But do you have to ‘winterize’ it? Can’t you just wrap stuff round it or protect it? When you get out your garden chairs in summer are you summerizing your garden? When you plant stuff in March or April are you springizing it?
‘Engineerize’ apparently means “to make someone more like an engineering student”. How could there be a need for such a word and what would it mean? Put a hard hat on them and send them out with a theodolyte? If you can engineerize someone, can you doctorize them or achitectize them? Maybe you could sex-workerize them?
The French have an august body (load of old blokes) in Paris which is the guardian of the French language. The Académie Francaise theoretically invents or approves every word that is admitted officially to the French language. Well they have to. For one thing, they have to decide if a word is going to be male or female. (They’ve made some very weird decisions over the years. Breast, for example, is male in French. So is vagina. Buttocks, even on a man, are female.) If the Americans invent the laptop or the iPod, the Académie Francaise will decide what to call it in French. As you might expect, French – as it is spoken – moves on every day, leaving the academicians politely behind.
English has never known such attempts to constrain it and has never had to rebel. It just grows and sprawls, twists and turns, mutates and sprouts. But still ‘-ize’ bothers me. There doesn’t seem to be any aesthetic to the way that words are neologicized. Any old noun or adjective can pick up an -ize, however wonky it sounds.
If you can tenderize meat, can you saladize a meal? Or chickenize it?
If you hang pictures on a wall, are you picturizing it?
Instead of cycling to work you may end up bicyclizing the journey. And dreaming of retirizing your old age.
I don’t want to forkize my food into my mouth. Or shoeize my feet. I don’t want a friendship that is Facebookized.
Resisting the development of English will always be a Cnut-like task – the waves will keep coming. But we do have a choice about the words we use personally. So I’ve decided I won’t be adopterizing any new -izes. What about you?