I was at a meeting last week where a committee member proposed “to operationalize the strategy.” Ugh!

That’s a lot of syllables for a word that means to begin or more specifically, to cause to be operational. But why does this -ize word sound particularly jargon-y and like it’s trying too hard?

Sometimes the -ize have it and sometimes they don’t. According to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate, -ize was introduced into English in the late 16th century “to remedy the surplus of monosyllabic words.” Huh.

Turns out the multi-faceted suffix has been drawing criticism ever since. The oft-used shortcut to verbing nouns and adjectives has resulted in many words in common usage. Think strategy/strategize, economy/economize, sync/synchronize.

The suffix works especially well with words ending in l, as with crystal and final. And sometimes the root word has disappeared right from under our -ize, as in mesmerize, which is derived from a proper name, Franz Mesmer (1734-1815) .

I think the problem with operationalize is its unwieldy tone and distance from the original verb, operate. To my ear, it sounds … dysfunctionalized.

March 10 2009 12:11 pm | -ize and errs

One Response to “WORD TO THE -IZE”

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