You have beautiful ize. [Weekly Head Voices #62]

I completely lack the genes that usually cause human males to have a thing for cars, but I do love Top Gear. This trailer for a fictional 60s detective show, made by Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond, encapsulates many of the reasons why:

Moustaches, guns, girls, cars and Hammond karate-chopping the porter at Playboy Club London for absolutely no reason whatsoever at 41 seconds can be nothing but 100% pure AWESOME.

It’s crazily busy at the moment, for a large part due to the extra load of having to teach and revamp, AT THE SAME TIME, the TU Delft’s postgraduate Data Visualization course. I’ve chucked out the written exam and the structured lab work, and exchanged it for paper reading, class discussion and four independent projects, inspired by positive experience with my Medical Visualization Ninja Training Course (third year in the running, Ninjas all over the place!), the postgraduate InfoVis course I gave at Stellenbosch and of course the teaching materials of esteemed colleagues at UBC, Harvard, Berkeley and Stanford. With a bit of luck, we will soon deliver a whole class of new-style DataVis Ninjas.

At a recent conference, I ran into an erudite half-British colleague from the far North, who in a few minutes almost managed to turn my world into rubble. You see, I’ve always proudly promoted the use of the -ise forms of certain words, such as visualise, realise, colonise and so forth, these being examples of British English. (Obviously, I adapt when American English is required.)

It turns out that, as is the case with life in general, it’s unfortunately not as simple as that.

It turns out that many of the -ise words are originally from the Greek or the Latin with “-ize” endings, and therefore the Oxford spelling prefers their use, although it accepts the “-ise” forms as well. On the other hand, the Cambridge University Press, as well as the mainstream media and most of the public in Britain and the former colonies, has a strong preference for the “-ise” forms. Certain other words like for example advertise, advise and surprise always take the “-ise” form in British English.

So now I’m faced with this conundrum. It would otherwise not have been such an issue, but the words “visualise” and “visualisation” come up quite often during my work day. Sticking to “-ise” is easier and still correct when in British English mode, but “-ize” for those few words of Greek  and Latin origin could perhaps be considered more correct, and has the great advantage of allowing me to standardise on “visualize” as the canonical form of that important term. However, then I would run the risk of confusing the “-ize” and the true “-ise” words in Oxford English, potentially leading to painful embarrassment at the many cocktail parties that I frequent.

So you see, the Universe is just full of mysteries. Another mystery that has plagued humankind for decades, is what would happen if Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein got involved in a rap battle. Well humankind, wonder no more:

Ok kids, thank you for tuning in again. Have a great week, I hope to see you again soon!