Defending the Language

On Saturday I spent a pleasant morning at a Diocesan CME event, looking at Mark’s Gospel with the wonderful Professor Morna Hooker. On the way out of the door, I grabbed a Bible to use, and this is the one that I took with me.

This is the version of the NRSV that is made for the UK market, removing Americanisms from the language (like the way colour is spelt "color").

It is known as the "Anglicized" version. Here is the blurb from the bible itself:

The work of Anglicization has been undertaken with considerable care in Britain, with the full support, encouragement and active participation of leading academics from the USA, who were responsible for the original work of translation. By this means the foundational scholarship which undergirds the NRSV has been safeguarded, but enhanced for readers in the United Kingdom, and other countries where British usage is preferred.


With a Z

What were they thinking?

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11 Comments on “Defending the Language

  1.  Am I right in thinking that this is the version used in RC and Anglo-Catholic Churches? I applaud your curiously un-evangelical taste if so! 

  2. Peter, the spelling -ize is an officially recognised (or recognized!) variant (alongside -ise) in British usage, and is the preferred style of several British publishing houses – including Oxford University Press, and hence of the famous Oxford dictionary series.  So there is no need to change -ize to -ise if all you are trying to do is convert American copy into something acceptable on this side of the pond.

  3. Well, Peter, you’re entitled to your opinion (although it sounds to me rather more like a sulk). In fact however there is not really any such thing as “Oxford spelling” as implied by the Wikipedia article that John H was kind enough to link us to. I have frequently been warned against relying on Wikipedia but in fairness I should say this is the first misleading article I have come across (to my knowledge).  The truth is that OUP has its house style just like any other major publisher, but a publisher’s house style is not the same thing as the difference between, say, American and British usage; rather it deals with questions like which forms should be preferred (by typesetters, editors, and proofreaders, and in an ideal world by authors) when the usage of the country concerned allows more than one possibility; in fact OUP’s style is characterised by a whole host of such preferences, of which the -ize thing is only one. Moreover it is not set in stone; for example, OUP recently changed from fledgeling to fledgling for some mysterious reason.  As far as -ize is concerned, the Wiki-author may be correct in saying that OUP is now unique among British publishers in preferring -ize; but if so then the situation is quite new.  As recently as about 1980 Cambridge UP, The Times, and Faber & Faber, to cite just the few I happen to have checked up on, were all using -ize, although I think they have all gone over to -ise now.  So it’s not right to say that -ize is not British usage. There is of course no official body empowered to decide such questions in the UK (or for that matter the US); such things are governed essentially by custom, and by the influence of a few respected writers such as Fowler. His well-known and much respected Modern English Usage (both the old 1920s version and the 1990s update) is quite adamant that both -ize and -ise are acceptable alternatives for the suffix [derived ultimately (as you must be aware) from Greek -izein via Latin -izare and French -iser] everywhere in the Anglophone world except the USA, where only -ize is normally accepted. For what it’s worth when I was at school (back in the 1970s) I was taught that both were OK, but -ise was “safer” to use because there are a few verbs that cannot be written in -ize [even in the US] because they are not formed with this suffix but have different origins [for example: revise, surprise, exercise] and if you use -ize normally you have to remember not to do it for those ones.  I rather suspect that kind of reasoning is what lies behind the great popularity of -ise in the last 30 years or so!  Earlier generations would probably have been made to learn the exceptions whether they used -ize or not, and may well have been made to use -ize in some schools just so that their teachers could check up on them!
    By the way: the Anglicised version of NRSV has a note near the beginning explaining the rationale for it and the methods adopted by the editors, if you are interested.

  4. Sorry, our last two messages crossed in post – this thing does not refresh the page automatically if a new comment is posted while you are writing your own piece.
    The answer is that Egyptian, like most languages before the invention of printing stimulated publishers to try to keep things within manageable limits, did not have a very standardised spelling. And since there were so many more signs, and thus so many more possibilities for writing each word, the situation can get a bit complicated sometimes.  There are typically about 3 or so common spellings for the average word and several more, less common, ones!  (I gather from my colleagues that Akkadian is much worse.) In the Greco-Roman period, however, the scribes started getting very inventive with their spellings so if you’re foolish enough to specialise in the hieroglyphs of that period you will have to spend about as much effort on reading one sentence as most people would have to spend on a Times crossword nowadays.
    Demotic is not so bad in that respect – the main problem is that the handwritings of different scribes differed so much that it’s almost like learning a new script each time.
    NB Do you get to see our comments as we are writing them or do you have to wait until we submit them?

  5. My oh my (realising I’m in company of folk as pedantic as I am..)

    I’m with you on -ize, Peter – much prefer -ise, for no especially good reason in my case. Robert, I learned from your posts – interesting. But if it’s fledgling not fledgeling, is it judgment or judgement…? And is anybody else here also a fan of Lynne Truss’s book on this (just to wander further off-topic)?
    in friendship, Blair

  6. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t use -ise if that’s what you want to do – it’s just that there isn’t any good reason for stopping other people from using -ize if that’s what they want to do.  (As people may have noticed I use -ise myself, when not wearing my OUP proofreader’s hat.)
    One reason why I’m not keen on OUP’s change to fledgling is that they still use abridgement, judgement etc. (except for legal cases …) so it seems inconsistent to me. [Lawyers are a particularly pernickety bunch; not only do they insist on judgment without a e after the g, when it comes to published rulings by judges, but they also insist on prothonotary  with an h for some sort of office in the English legal system, even though that’s ridiculous from the etymological point of view and everyone writes protonotary without h when it comes to the Vatican officials with that title!]

  7. Hey, thank you for the laugh, Peter.  I shall have to go take a look at that bible. I hope it is available in Canada.

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