Vocative commas, -ise/-ize, and the -fishing libfix

My monthly column at Macmillan Dictionary Blog continues this year. Here are the most recent three posts.

In Catfishing, blackfishing, sadfishing: the spread of a new libfix, I report on -fishing, which has been quite productive since originating in catfishing about a decade ago:

Catfishing is ‘tricking someone into having an online relationship by adopting a fake identity’. It comes from a 2010 documentary film named Catfish. The word quickly became popular online – it’s still making headlines – and soon gave rise to other -fishing terms. . . . Libfix is Arnold Zwicky’s term for a certain type of combining form – a bit like an affix, but narrower in meaning and relatively liberated.

Blackfishing and sadfishing are among the more prominent spin-off terms, but many others have been coined by analogy, and ‘all retain the idea of hiding or feigning one’s ethnicity or physical appearance’.

Criticizing -ize and -ise explores this suffix, a common source of new verbs in English. After tackling the idea that such neologisms should be minimized (e.g., Garner says they are ‘usually ungainly and often superfluous’), I consider the vexed question of spelling:

The –ise suffix comes from French, ize from the earlier Greek. Popular lore says simplistically that -ize is American and -ise British. American English does mandate -ize, but it’s also standard in British usage and is the default for some publishers, including Macmillan and Oxford. British English also uses -ise, and it is house style for some newspapers and magazines, such as the Guardian and Economist. Englishes around the world use either.

Hello, vocative comma looks at the comma you often see between a greeting word and a name:

Some include a comma after the greeting word (Hi, Bob), while others skip it (Hi Bob). Sometimes it depends on the greeting word (Hi Kate but Hello, Kate), the register (Hello honey but Hello, Dr Smith), or things like mood and whim. So what are the rules for this erratic mark?

It’s called the vocative comma because these structures are in the vocative case. (The word has the same Latin root as vocation and shares its sense of ‘calling’.) But the vocative comma is used in many other types of situation, as the post goes on to show.

6 Responses to Vocative commas, -ise/-ize, and the -fishing libfix

  1. khokharjareehullah says:

    Please don’t send again emails to I am not interested to read your emails

    • Stan Carey says:

      Hi, khokharjareehullah. Thanks for subscribing to Sentence first back in 2014. You can unsubscribe by clicking on ‘Unsubscribe’ at the end of each email. I can’t do this for you.

  2. astraya says:

    Being Australian, I prefer/use -ise/-isation spellings, and everywhere I’ve worked that has had a style guide has specified them. But I had a running battle with someone over the International Health Organization – as far as I can see, the official name of an official body takes precedence over anything else (Australian style would even write about the Labor Party being in talks with the labour unions (actually we’d probably say trade unions or even trades unions)).

    I can see the sense in -ize/-ization spellings, being a) closer to the Greek originals and b) how we actually pronounce them. But appeal to classical languages. I also use the French-ish -our spellings even though Latin used -or.

  3. astraya says:

    I saw the movie Emma today and it starts with on-screen text of Austen’s first sentence: ‘Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich …’

    Project Gutenberg has the serial comma.

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