Virtualize or Virtualise ?

I was presenting at a session on Virtualization on Friday, and the Organizer had collated all the slides together into one deck. And he had “corrected” my spelling of Virtualization because one of the other presenters used Virtualisation with an S. Every so often people tell me that using Z is a nasty modern American innovation. In fact it is not. I worry when I’ve told people that it comes over as “You bloody idiot, don’t you know your own language”. (One of the check boxes in the on-line survey I mentioned a couple of Saturdays back was was “Other people frequently tell me that what I've said is impolite, even though I think it is polite.” that was one I ticked. And I’ve had a couple of reminders of it recently ….). So I don’t know if it’s bludgeoning the point home to trot out this quote from "Plain Words", by Sir Ernest Gowers, published by HMSO, but I find it useful.

On the Question of whether words like Organise or Organisation should be spelt with an s or a z, authorities differ. There are some words (e.g Advertise, comprise, despise, advise, exercise and surmise) which are never spelled with a z. There are others (such as Organize) for which the spelling with z is the only American form , and is also a very common British one. This being so the British writer has the advantage over the American in that we may, if we wish, use an s all the time, for that will never be wrong, whereas a Z sometimes will be. But do not condemn those who use z in it's right place.

I tend to use z because I learnt years ago that Organize was correct, and Organise was a Victorian affectation – as with some other bits of the language the Americans have stayed with the old way. Fans of my local fictional detective Chief Inspector Morse, might remember an episode which turned on a fake suicide note – the give-away was that the Oxford don supposed to have written it would never have used an S. Shakespeare would have called the letter “Zee” not “Zed”. What does bug me sometimes is when people can’t decide which to use. Because the little map on the right of my blog tells me I have a lot of non-British readers I tend to use the more international version, rather than trying to please those British readers who think Z is wrong, but provided a document for a British audience is consistent then I really don’t mind. I get more bother by data centre. At some point after the pilgrim fathers sailed British English decided to spell a number of words like that with a French-style –re, where the colonists remained true to –er. So our customers have Data centres (places, British spelling) in which they run Windows Server 2008 Datacenter edition (product name, American spelling), in which they say they Virtualise workloads (quoted text of an English author) using Microsoft Virtualization. (Product name).

Comments (5)

  1. James ONeill says:

    Gary, What on earth makes you think I’m American.

    I work for Microsoft UK, I was born in the UK of British parents, and have never spent more than a month out of the country.

  2. Anonymous says:

    This drives me nuts as well. I’ll continue to talk about Virtualization much to the pains of my British counterparts. 🙂

  3. JeremyHagan says:

    When I did a writing course in University (in Australia) I was taught that it depended on the root of the word.  If it was greek or latin.  I can’t remember which was which, but the gist of it was that for one that S was correct and that for the other S or Z was correct.  In which case if you are unsure, use S.

  4. Anonymous says:

    To quote James O'Neill : "So our customers have Data centres (places, British spelling) in which

  5. Gary says:

    you’re an american, spell them accordingly: Virtualize




    when i read the british form, i don’t CRITICIZE the author and nobody should CRITICIZE you.

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