Many editors and other assorted word buffs have a pathological aversion to some words ending in -ize (or -ise, it doesn’ t matter which, I’ll use –ize below to stand for them both), and would do all they could to expel them from the body of English.
Why? Sometimes it seems almost like a blood feud: just as venomous and visceral, and just as unreasonable.
A history of contempt
The novelist, MP, and campaigner for plain language Sir Alan Herbert compared verbs ending in -ize to lavatory fittings, useful in their proper place, but not to be multiplied beyond what is necessary for practical purposes.
(He also quipped:
If nobody said anything unless he knew what he was talking about a ghastly hush would descend upon the earth.)
Perhaps people’s antipathy to such words is simply a question of their novelty, either real or perceived.
In the 19th century jeopardize was a favourite target (of Noah Webster, of dictionary fame, among others). In the earlier 20th century finalize came in for a lot of flack.
Who now raises an eyebrow about either?
In 1982 the eminent lexicographer Robert Burchfield described prioritize as
a word that at present sits uneasily in the language
While some people still consider it an uninvited guest, it seems to have made itself at home and got its feet well under the table.
And who bats an eyelid (the idioms are galloping away with me today) about authorize (first recorded in the 14th century), civilize (17th), memorize (16th), sterilize (17th), terrorize (19th), and, more topically, computerize (1960).
A public convenience
I would argue that most -ize verbs are a very convenient way of packaging in one word meanings and connotations that would otherwise take several.
They are beautifully (or uglily, for many) economical.
Take a word which, as it happens, is more common in British than in American English, despite probably sounding to many Brits like an Americanism; and, far from being new, was first used—albeit in a different meaning—in 1827: diarize/diarise.
It expresses “to put in one’s diary” in a single word. How convenient is that?
Let’s incentivize our offering
Another current bête noire is incentivize. It is one of the more than 100 -ize verbs the Oxford English Dictionary lists as having been coined after 1950.
Again, it is conveniently economical. Compare its single-wordness with the OED definition.
“To motivate or encourage (a person, esp. an employee or customer) by providing a (usually financial) incentive; also with to and infinitive. Also: to make (a product, scheme, etc.) attractive by offering an incentive for purchase or participation.”
As long ago as 1996, Burchfield wisely observed:
“One must be careful not to give the thumbs down to words simply because one has not encountered them before. … Any feeling that the language is being swamped by new formations in –ization and –ize does not appear to be supported by the facts.”
I agree wholeheartedly.