Vive la différence... -ce / -se

Posted by Bruce Kahl on December 14, 2001

In Reply to: Vive la différence... -ce / -se posted by TheFallen on December 14, 2001 at

: : : : 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.

: Yes of course the purpose of language is to allow clear communication, but surely it's our common understanding of the "rules", however arbitrarily devised in days gone by, that enable our communication to be accurately expressed and equally acurately understood in the first place? If we're to abandon them even partially, whether in terms of spelling, grammar or indeed even something as minor as punctuation, then we risk being entirely misunderstood. Even a missing comma could change the entire nuance of a sentence.

As in:
Let's eat, Grandma!
Let's eat Grandma!