The Random-ise Project
Books and writers
- Thomas Nashe 1567 - 1601
- Shakespeare c.1589 to c.1613
- Robert Cawdrey - A Table Alphabeticall - 1604
- King James Bible - 1611
- Milton's Paradise Lost 1667
- Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress 1678
- Jonathan Swift 1667 – 1745
- Congreve's The Way of the World 1756
- Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy - 1759
- Ann Ward Radcliffe - A Sicilian Romance - 1792
- The novels of Jane Austen 1775 – 1817
- Inconsistency in Thackeray's Vanity Fair 1847-8 and Darwin's Origin of the Species 1859
- The books of George Borrow 1803 - 1881
- The novels of George Eliot 1819- 1880
Magazines and periodicals
Conclusions so far
- The very first -ize suffix verbs to come into English, verbs like authorise and recognise, took the Old English ending -isen, as the letter Z hardly existed in Old English. Once the letter Z and its pronunciation had become established, however, these verbs began to be spelt with a Z, and by the end of the 14th century, the Z spelling was more or less standard.
- These -ize suffix verbs were not used very much until the 18th century. On the other hand, use of the limited number of French -ise verbs was very popular. They were occasionally also spelt with a Z.
- From at least the end of the sixteenth century,as well as adopting -ize suffix verbs from Latin and Greek, often via French, the -ize suffix was being added to existing native English nouns.
- There was a lot of inconsistency in spelling of both -ize suffix verbs and French -ise verbs right from the beginning, and well into the middle of the nineteenth century.
- In the eighteenth century, the use of -ize verbs increased substantially, as is evident, for example, Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy, 1759.
- For some reason, some British publishers started to spell -ize verbs with an s in the first half of the nineteenth century. The move from z to s happened very rapidly. All six of Jane Austen's novels were originally published (1811-1818) with -ize endings. When Richard Bentley started republishing them in 1832-1833, in the 'Standard Novels' series, they had nearly all acquired -ise endings.
- Conventional wisdom puts this change by British publishers down to a mistaken analogy with French -ise verbs, but so far, I've been unable to find any contemporary discussion of the topic. My gut feeling is that it had a lot more to do with consistency. Once publishers changed to s, the levels of consistency improved greatly.