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08 Apr 2012

Does It Pay to Advertize?

I’m reading a biography of Georgette Heyer, my all-time favourite comfort author. I’ve read some of her novels so often I could have a fair stab at reciting them by heart. So it is interesting – and faintly disappointing – to discover that she was not only very much a grande dame, she was also a bit of an old bag.

But, give her her due, her attention to detail was meticulous. The one time she really got it wrong was in describing the oriental grandeur of the Brighton Pavilion in a novel set three years before that OTT orientalism was added. I confess I have read Regency Buck a number of times and never noticed, and the biographer suggests that not many other readers noticed either.

Anyway, never mind the Pavilion, she was also meticulous about grammar, punctuation and the like. In the 1930s she had a row with one of her publishers because the typesetter – who seems to have been a law unto himself – insisted on spelling words such as realise with an s. Modern-day dictionaries – and I’ve checked Collins, Chambers and the OED – all prefer realize, but both Collins and Chambers give the s form as an alternative, without suggesting that it is wrong, old-fashioned, illiterate or any of those things. But what I found odd is that Miss Heyer, as I’m sure she would have wanted to be called, also wrote advertize with a z. Both Chambers and Collins say that this is American; the OED doesn’t mention it as an option, and the latest example they quote with this spelling is 1803. I can understand that Miss Heyer was old-school, but not as old-school as all that.

If I was asked to pontificate on the subject – as I sometimes am – I would say that advertize was just plain wrong.

So how do these changes happen? I have no idea. But it does show that those of us who get on to soapboxes about this sort of thing are asking for trouble.

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