By coïncidence, Oxford University Press Canada fired its dictionary staff right after I released my E-book about Canadian English spelling. This was the division that accomplished the unprecedented feat of keeping a dictionary on the best-seller list for years, with 400,000 copies sold. We were told that Oxford U.S. would handle things from now on – which means Jesse Sheidlower, who I suspect would never suggest he actually knows anything about Canadian English.

Then we have Sara Hawker, a first-class imperialist and second-rate lexicographer. Writing on the official OED blog, she has the temerity to claim:

In all but American English, it doesn’t matter which spelling convention is chosen: neither is right or wrong, and neither is “more right” than the other. The important thing is that, whichever form you choose, you should use it consistently within a piece of writing.

What’s she talking about? Verbs ending in ‑ize or ‑ise. (She leaves out ‑yze or ‑yse, as most such discussions do.)

I expect nothing but thoroughness and unimpeachable correctness from Oxford. Here we have neither. To educate Hawker:

  • There are three spelling traditions in English, namely American, Canadian, and British. Every country that isn’t Canada or the U.S. uses British. (Go ahead – check.)

  • In Canadian English, there is only one right way to write these verbs, and it’s the American model of ‑ize/‑yze. One way very much is “more right” than the other. British verb endings are wrong here.

  • You can’t pick and choose your endings in the U.S. or in Canada.

In retrospect I should have expected this kind of ass‑ or arse-backwards error given that the OED site lets you search “U.S. English” or “World English,” as though those were the only options. There actually are three, and they don’t go by those names.

Hawker had about a week to get back to my E-mail on this topic but didn’t. Jesse Sheidlower wouldn’t parade his ignorance like this, would he?

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2011.04.01 14:19. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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