phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Vive la différence... -ce / -se

Posted by Barney on December 13, 2001

In Reply to: Vive la différence... -ce / -se posted by R. Berg on December 13, 2001

: : As a very recent arrival to this forum, I'm inspired to truth-test something that I am sure I remember being taught in school, and that I have argued in favour of passionately over the years. I am more than aware of a potential transatlantic difference of opinion here, but as far as I am concerned, my hazily remembered rule goes like this:-

: : If it's -ce, it's a noun, and if it's -se, it's a verb.

: : Examples... I am licensed, so I have a licence. I practise medicine at my medical practice.

: : Caveats... there are no *English* words such as "defense" or "offense", although these do apparently exist in American English - we Brits use "defence" and "offence", only replacing the "c" with an "s" when we're using the verb-based adjectives "defensive" and "offensive".

: : I am sure I remember being told at school that, if ever in a state of confusion, to remember the words advice and advise, where it's clear which is the noun and which the verb, due to pronunciation differences.

: : You may blame yourselves for my asking this question... it was inspired by earlier postings which I'll quote.

: : "Now you can see why we British thought you Americans were not yet ready to be abandoned to your own devises."

: : "Devices."

: : "My OED and I are entirely happy with 'devises'."

: : Despite also being a Brit, and despite my utter reverence for the OED, I'd never have gone along with "devises". Is my potentially failing memory right on this?

: For reference (sp. OK?), these are the standard American forms:

: I am licensed, so I have a license.
: I practice medicine at my medical practice.
: Inventors devise new devices.
: Someone who advises gives advice.
: A good defense is the best offense.
: A net increase results when some quantity increases.
: Passers-by noticed a notice pinned to the gate.
: A person with allergies is incensed by the smell of incense.
: The burglar cased the house and found a jewelry case belonging to someone who was housed there.

The whole objective of a language is to allow accurate communication of concepts and ideas between people. The objective is not to strictly adhere to a set of arbitrary rules that roughly approximate to good practice and defend these like a mother her child. In the immortal words of that great wordsmith, Nobel Prize winner, consummate war leader and all round good guy Sir Winston Churchill; 'Up with this I will not put.'

To be left to ones own devices is one thing; to be left to ones own devises is subtly different.

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