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Re: [Fsfe-uk] Re: Associate status application

From: Marc Eberhard
Subject: Re: [Fsfe-uk] Re: Associate status application
Date: Wed, 22 May 2002 19:45:26 +0100
User-agent: Mutt/1.3.28i

Dear Martin & Robert!

On Wed, May 22, 2002 at 02:21:54PM +0000, Martin WHEELER wrote:
> Unfortunately Marc, British spelling is not as consistent as you would
> have it.

... I should have guessed it! Is there anything consistent in this country
apart from consistently being inconsistent?

> I belong to that generation which was taught to use 'organize' and
> 'organization' as the standard spelling, even though the variants with
> 's' were also in use at the time; moreover the Oxford English

OK, at least it's not wrong.

> Dictionary has always given 'organize' as the primary form, with the 's'
> form as a variant.
> (The Cambridge Dictionary will doubtless give it arsy-tarsy -- but they
> would, wouldn't they? :)

Is that really true? The Cambridge dictionary lists the 's' version while
the Oxford one 'z' as the primary choice? I can't believe it! :-(

Not being a native English speaker, I always used the "british" ispell

address@hidden:~$ ispell -A -dbritish
@(#) International Ispell Version 3.1.20 10/10/95, patch 1

& organize 1 0: organise

And that clearly marks the 'z' version as incorrect. The opposite is true,
if you use the "american" dictionary, thus I assumed it's an Americanism.

Just had a look at my good old "Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary of
Current English", 24th impression (1986) and it only shows the 'z' version
and doesn't even mention the 's' version. Good grief!

> Today's generation is utterly confused about the use of "its" and "it's"
> and will happily use 'center' and 'theater' as well as Computer Capitals
> On Every Bloody Word, so as a descriptive linguist I will just point out
> current usage and make no prescriptive judgment.

Which I appreciate very much!!! As it is not even clear to native speakers,
can you imagine what a problem this is for me? May I send you future
announcements for proof reading? It's really good to know to have a linguist
on this mailing list!

> The real giveaway in that text however is 'focuses' -- which of course
> is spelled correctly for British usage.

According to my good old dictonary, it doesn't exist as a verb, correct?

ispell says:


Which means, it can be derived from focus. Obviously the program is too
stupid to tell the difference between the plural of focus and the verb to
focus. That's why it went through undetected.

> The text as it stands is OK for me -- but it's also OK if you use the
> 's' form.  My own spelling habits will always remain consistent with
> what I was taught at school in the 1940s and 50s however.

I only realized (only 'z' in my dictionary, but ispell allows both 's' and
'z') that the spelling was inconsistent throughout the document. I had used
the 's' form and Georg the 'z' form. Ispell complained about the 'z' form
and then I believed to remember that MJ Ray had complained about the usage
of 'z' too a while ago. Who would have thought, that we were all so terribly

On Wed, May 22, 2002 at 06:15:01PM +0100, Robert (Jamie) Munro wrote:
> Organize, and most other -ize words are recognized as valid alternative
> British spellings, and are the preferred spellings of Oxford University
> Press, amongst others. They are not Americanisms. It is true that in the
> USA, the -ise versions are not recognized.

The interesting thing is, that the "british" dictionary in ispell is not in
accordance with that. Does someone know, where this "british" version comes
from? Who compiled it?

Reading the copyright file it says:

The dictionary was composed by combining the upstream "medium" sized
dictionary with the words in the appropriate current Debianized
wordlist (wenglish).

More information about International Ispell (an interactive spelling
corrector) is available from <URI:http://fmg-www.cs.ucla.edu/geoff/>.

Copyright and licence notice:

 Copyright (c), 1983, by Pace Willisson
 Copyright 1992, 1993, Geoff Kuenning, Granada Hills, CA
 All rights reserved.

And wenglish states:

# Here is part of the README file for english.tar.Z:

# README> FILE: english.words
# README>     Jorge Stolfi <address@hidden>
# README>     DEC Systems Research Center
# README>   
# README>     Andy Tanenbaum <address@hidden>
# README>     Barry Brachman <address@hidden>
# README>     Geoff Kuenning <address@hidden>
# README>     Henk Smit <address@hidden>
# README>     Walt Buehring <address@hidden>

Does that mean, no native English speakers has been involved? Reading on...

# README>         (I apologize for excluding British spellings.  I should have
# README>         split the list in three sublists--- common English, British,
# README>         American---as ispell does.  But there are only so many hours
# README>         in a day...)

So what is the difference between common English and British spelling? The
more I read, the more I get confused... but that's probably the intention of
this mess. :-)

address@hidden:~$ apt-cache pkgnames | grep english
address@hidden:~$ apt-cache pkgnames | grep british

So there are different Debian packages for English and British words, but
only one ispell dictionary for English. I think, I better stop here...

> I would change them all to -ize (not that I know anything about the AFFS -
> I'm just subscribed to the mailing list)

Sniff, unfortunately it's too late now. Georg already sent the announcment
out. But I will surely remember that for the future!

Thank you so much for pointing this out to me!


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