Monday, 24 July 2017

Cliff edges

Back from Pembrokeshire, home of coast paths and sideways rain, I'm reflecting on systems meeting each other; cliffs, for example,

One system is at <cliff_height> metres and another system is at sea-level, and at the cliff-edge there's an abrupt change.
Highlight of our holiday was a trip in a RIB around Ramsey Island, whose West Cliff is the heighest in <somewhere>. There were too many of us for one boat, but fortunately the had a spare RIB. Presumably they were called Adam and Eve; bou-boun_tsh_I_thang_yow. But earlier on in the trip we had come across – and crossed – another sort of cliff; a metaphorical one, but a tangible one  (unlike many other metaphors).

Until the end of the Ice Age (??? weren't there several – regardless, the local tourist mythology was based on  just one, THE Ice Age) Ramsey Island was joined to the mainland by a tongue of land. The melting ice caused a rise in sea-level...
Hang on though, what about Archimedes – the displacement of the floating ice?  Shouldn't the sea-level stay the same? Well, no. That's what I thought until I read  this article about the recently-formed giant iceberg:

Ice shelves are vast expanses of ice floating on the sea, several hundred metres thick, at the edge of glaciers.
Scientists fear the loss of ice shelves will destabilise the frozen continent’s inland glaciers. And while the splitting off of the iceberg would not contribute to rising sea levels, the loss of glacial ice would.
The  melting of the ice-shelf uncorks the glaciers
... so most of that tongue, while submerged, is still marked by a treacherous string of rocks (a garrotte of rocks?) known as The Bitches. But that's just above the surface; the remnants of the old land-bridge form an even more treacherous submarine line of  obstacles.

This makes for an area of white water. It looked from a few boat-lengths  relatively placid, though we were told that in certain tidal/temporal conditios there could  be a difference in depth on each side of the cliff of 2 metres. Besides, the apparent placidness was only relative. The difference  between the two levels was underlined by the RIB's being held in place half-way up the slope. The outboard motor laboured to keep us from slipping back, with the sound of a lawn mower hitting a swathe of extra lush grass, and I thought we'd have to give up and find a gentler slope. But the motor was up to the challenge (indeed, the steersman probably held us there for effect).
But now I'm back to an untidy pile of emails on my cyber-doormat.; and the main cliff-edge metaphor is Mrs May's. There are others, though, if you screw your eyes up. The earthquake in Kos, for example. Conflicting pressures build up on either side of a fault-line, and when it gets too much there is a big jerk: again, two systems meeting, and a dangerous change at the meeting point. Or, at a more abstract level, pensions. There is one system, later there is another, and where the two meet there is disruption.

But I must get on , preparing for my choir's coming jaunt:


PS – a few clues:
  • Factor it; it‘s confused with penis enhancements. (15)
  • Short friend, cold, hard acts to follow this sort of golf. (9)
  • The wrong sort of bachelor, say, with inputs from leftist extrenists, can be made out. (12)

Update: 2017.07.24.17:45 – Added PPS and fixed some typos.

PPS And a topical one:
  • Scatty vain dolls take note here. (4, 6)

Friday, 7 July 2017

We, Paleface?

(Tonto's response to the Lone Ranger's Indians, Tonto. Hundreds of them. We're in trouble now.)

A while ago I wrote (here)
...whenever a dictionary says 'origin unknown' it's a fairly safe bet that a non-Roman writing system was involved. In fact, 'origin unknown' is a bit  like the geographer's terra incognita and 'Here be dragons'; it's a euphemism for 'outwith the scope of traditional scholarship'; and it's not a final sentence.
This is reminiscent of a trick question I remember from my schooldays:  

What was the biggest island in the world before Australia was discovered? 
Answer: Australia.

My point is that whenever someone does something, someone else may well have got there first. That Ecclesiastes bloke was right: There is nothing  new under the Sun. While we're on the subject of islands, I wrote here about how the Portuguese visited the island of Leiname in the early fifteenth century and named it Madeira.
Lignum is the root of the Spanish leño, and  [not that simple...] materia is the root of the Portuguese madeira (no prizes, by now, for recognizing metathesis here – the r;and the i. This commonplace in language development is the subject of one of my more popular backnumbers.)
A Castilian monk (again not the first, but possibly – except for an alleged visit by the Vikings – the first in the post-Roman world) 'discovered' the island too:
...[A] Castilian monk also identified the location of the islands in their present location, with the names Leiname (modern Italian legname, cognate of Portuguese madeira, "wood"), Diserta and Puerto Santo.
So says Wikipedia, and I don't have time to trace it back to a sounder source. 
Then along came the Portuguese and spat in their beer (as it were)... 
This is not to say that this is the only word. Among the options, Spanish has madera and Portuguese has lenho. By changing the name, Portugal was not saying 'A feeg for your feelthy leño. We are calling it Madeira, to remove all trace of your influence.' They were simply asserting their right to change the name, or perhaps covering their tracks – 'This isn't what others have known as Leiname, it's Madeira',  changing the name so as to stake their claim – in the way of all colonizing powers.
In their defence though, one should remember that in those days there was no international maritime registry – they weren't to know.

I was reminded of this by Jim Al Kalili's Science and Islam earlier this week (that's when I saw it, although it first aired  in 2009). He thought (as did many [all?] educated Westerners, that Egyptology began in the 19th century with the discovery of the Rosetta Stone. But remember my's a fairly safe bet that a non-Roman writing system was involved. About 40 minutes in, the learned professor...
I'm drawn to the idea of Jim Al-Kalili having an evil alter ego called Midge Acid-id. The gag (if that's the word, perhaps I should just say conceit) works better with IPA  symbols:

Jim/Midge => /ʤɪm mɪʤ/
...starts a quite lengthy piece about how Arabic scholars deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphics much earlier. (I would quantify that much but my sound card is busy with other things...).

Speaking of which, I could be watching the cricket.   Stay tuned for an update about the word algorithm.


And here are a few more clues:
  • Reportedly, be accompanied by a criminal intermediary and be affronted – (4, 7)
  • An amount worthy of consideration amidst your alternate arrangement – (1,4,3)
  • Like the sky, learn cue after improvisation  – (8)
Update: 2017.07.10.12:15 – Added PPS


I promised an update about algorithm, and here it is. In the ninth century, long before William the Bastard conquered Britain, there lived a mathematician in a town now called Khiva. His name, according to one of the Oxford Dictionaries – Dominus illuminatio mea might as well be Dominus obscuratio mea when it comes to trying to work out just who is telling you something (anyway, the source is here) – whose name made its way into the catalogues of libraries that used Roman script as "al-Ḵwārizmī ‘the man of Ḵwārizm’".
Long-time readers of this blog may remember about al being the definite article, marking many borrowings from Arabic, especially ones that came to English via Spain (whose Moorish invaders spoke Arabic as a second language). This explains why the Italian for sugar  is zucchero (as the Arab invaders of Italy through Sicily had Arabic as a mother-tongue), whereas Spanish and Portuguese words for sugar are azúcar and açúcar, bearing the trace of an article: Do you take the sugar in your coffee?

(As Etymonline says
sugar (n.) Look up sugar at
late 13c., sugre, from Old French sucre "sugar" (12c.), from Medieval Latin succarum, from Arabic sukkar, from Persian , from Sanskrit sharkara "ground or candied sugar,"...
The Arabic root of sugar has no vowel before the s.)

This man introduced the idea of solving problems in principle – without reference to specific values. The system he used involved formulating an <insert-word-here> and applying it to the problem. The rest is left as an exercise for the reader. :-)

Monday, 3 July 2017

Shedding light...

... or smoke and mirrors

My attention was caught recently by this tweet:

I dutifully (well, some would say pursuing ideas is an act of self-indulgence rather than duty: discuss) followed the link and reached a page. But I like to know where what I'm reading comes from, and is really a portal; in their page was this link, to an elearning page that made this eyebrow-raising claim:
Barbara Malt, professor of psychology and director of the Cognitive Science Program at Lehigh University explains: “The idea that language moves from describing concrete phenomena to abstract ideas has been around for a few decades. But, nobody has taken that idea and looked at how word meanings have evolved over time – until now.” 
Hmm. Concrete to abstract: then what about Ttaanic? Think about it:

Absstract: pertaining to the Titans, (jolly big): example: "a Titanic struggle"
Concrete: a particular ship: the SS Titanic
Abstract: pertaining to the fate of that particular ship
Example: "rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic"

In this case abstract and concrete applications dance a minuet with each other, now one thing, now the other, and back again. Admittedly, though,. concrete -> abstract is the more common direction of travel. But the words ...nobody has taken that idea and looked at how word meanings have evolved over time – until now. got my goat rather – especially the last breathless bit. The idea of a systematic mapping of how metaphors are formed is new, but the idea that "looking at" meaning development is new is just risible: 19th-century philologers were doing it, in a piecemeal and anecdotal way.

Anyway, returning to that hyperlink-enabled paperchase: At last, I thought, I was getting somewhere. But man proposes and the Interweb disposes. At the end of a paragraph or two of press release there was yet another link, to this EurekSlert page. My quest was over: from...

How a word becomes a metaphor, new research , Lehigh University

...I had reached an article entitled

Analysis sheds light on how metaphors like 'sheds light' evolved

Oddly, though, the ultimate (?) source had the jokier title (a misleading one, as it happens, but a gag's a gag). This should  have warned me that my quest was not finished;  not by a long chalk. (Interesting, that; why not a short chalk) The EurekAlert piece said this:
...New word meanings come about when there's a need to express something new," says Barbara Malt, professor of psychology and director of the Cognitive Science Program at Lehigh University. "For instance, the original meaning of the word 'grasp' only described holding something physically. Later, 'grasp' also came to mean holding something in a metaphorical sense, such as 'grasping an idea.'"

Is this crossing-over from one realm of meaning to another random? Or does it follow a pattern?I
...The... findings will be published in an article in a forthcoming issue of Cognitive Psychology called: "Evolution of word meanings through metaphorical mapping: Systematicity over the past millennium."...
The article is on a ScienceDirect site, where (of course) you can only read an Abstract of

Evolution of word meanings through metaphorical mapping: Systematicity over the past millennium

The next stage involves my enriching the coffers of Elsevier, which ain't gonna happen: here are Highlights, as advertised there:

So where has this daisychain of hyperlinks led us? The fabled infinite number of monkeys now have more than just a typewriter; they have  an infinite number of photocopiers. And it's getting increasingly hard to screen out the white noise of cloned bumf.


PS A few clues:
  • Less than elegant in an ugly configuration, (8)
  • Working class in typical fettle (2, 4)
  • Compôte of pears left over. (5)

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Putting the emPHAsis on the wrong sylLABle

My attention was caught the other day, for a number of reasons, by this tweet:

Chief among my reasons was that I can't see a rule without wanting to break it or prove it wrong. 
A simple example is the new paper-towel dispenser where my choir rehearses. The instructions end Pull down with both hands. When I'm alone (natch – I'm not that badly house-trained) I take great pains – and it's not easy – to do it with only one hand.
Another reason was that I didn't understand the tweet (without the context of reading the article – which I didn't have time to do). But I have since read the article and all is – relatively, considering the quality of the article (not a gem, in the Clarity Stakes) – clear.

The link was to a Business Insider article (my quotations are all from this article, but I can't be bothered to be my normal linkorrhoeic self) presented on a secondary site. So I clicked through to the original: before charging at it like a bull at a gate I should make sure  the advice was coming from the horse's mouth, at the risk mixing my metaphors.

That picture of some sort of water-ice was followed by the echolalic (is that a word? Well it is now) question

To which my answer would probably be, I thought:


But, more to the point, who was the you in their question? What is Business Insider's target readership? From the title I had guessed that it was some sort of business journal; but the tone of the article suggested that it was an ESOL resource, for use in what is unfortunately known as GBE (General Business English).
And it goes on:

Erm... not so much.

But if the target audience was ESOL students, my feelings of affront and assumed condescension were  hardly appropriate.

There were 12 key words, rather than the promised 11. Some early reader had presumably pointed out that 11 was an oddly arbitrary number, and you can chalk one more up for deadline-pressure.

Two of the words discussed (comptroller and supposedly) had nothing to do with stress; come to that, it's not easy to discern what they did have to do with. As a native speaker of English, I have never knowingly used the word comptroller. If this is a teaching resource, the students have my sympathy.

Other key words dealt with mispronunciations that I have never heard, such as

I suppose an ESOL student might meet banal for the first time and wonder whether it sounds like anal or canal. And here I'm tempted to recommend a  reference work of some kind, perhaps this.
<rant type="Is it worth repeating? You must be as bored of hearing it as I am of saying it.">
The usual. These "sounds like" 'transcriptions' do more harm than good. The arguments against teaching and using the tiny subset of IPA characters needed for teaching English are either trivial or vacuous or both. (One of the fuller rants is here.)
ELT teachers, arise: set your students free!
Use IPA symbols
/ju: nəʊ ɪt meɪks sens/

And some of the words are only incidentally involved in getting stress wrong:
This, for example, misses a trick:
The extra syllable doesn't happen because of the faulty stress. I  imagine it happens by false analogy with words such as devious (and other less similar-sounding -<glide>ous words such as impervious or extraneous).

But maybe I'm wronging the article by assuming that the focus is stress.  It just says mispronunciation; and I'm only obsessing about stress because of the original tweeter's confusion. Incidentally, I originally thought the problem was just AE vs BE: the standard AE stress on sorbet is on the second syllable, so bold does mark stress in this:
Many say "sher-bert," though there's no second "r" — not even a silent one. It's not to be confused with "sorbet" (sor-bay)
It's not so clear with this though:
Most people add an extra syllable to this word. It is pronounced "tri-ath-lon" not "tri-ath-a-lon."?
Does anyone add an extra syllable like this? It's reminiscent of the childish interpolation of extra vowels to avoid tricky consonant clusters, but I've never heard any UK adult do it. And in any case, does anyone NOT stress the second syllable in that word? (I'm drawn to AE/BE explanations because the website in question is registered in Scottsdale, Arizona.)

Anyway, the bottom line: the article strikes me as slapdash and ill-thought-out. If it's meant for ESOL students, they deserve better. If it's meant for anyone else, I can't imagine what they'd get out of it or why they'd read it.


PS And a couple of clues:
  • Janitors take back control of surrounding vehicles – (10)
  • Carnival exhibit all at sea – (5  6)

Update: 20112.05.22.15:25 – Corrected letter count for second clue(!)

Monday, 5 June 2017

Oops - cause célèbre or...

.... a storm in a twea-cup?

Just before 9.00 on 2  June 2017, James Conwyn M P tweeted this, shortly before thinking Tweet in haste, repent at leisure. There had been over a thousand retweets before (as I imagine) it was taken down.

But the genie was out of the bottle. By midday, there had been well over 3,000 retweets.

Why did this happen? The Freudian slip theory. that he recognised Tory shortcomings and subconsciously wanted to "tell the truth", doesn‘t hold water (*KLAXON* Mixed metaphor alert: What kind of permeable bottle was this genie in?) Conwyn just wouldn‘t talk this way, whatever truths his id wanted him to  admit to.

So was it a simple typo? Unlikely. If he‘s right-handed and a one-finger typist (fairly safe assumptions for a late middle-aged male WASP in the Conservative hive) typing a T takes much more effort than typing a P.

I favour a psycho-phonological explanation: what makes the strong and stable jingle so memorable is the alliteration of the cluster /st/. If the tip of the tongue is accustomed to hitting the back of the upper gums once per  stressed word, the temptation will be to do the same even when the jingle has finished Hunt-and-peck typists vocalize the words they type. So the /p/ dissimilates to /t/ in the typist's voice and this change interferes with the fingers.
<digression type="Aha but...">
In my efforts to find out more about Conwyn, I met this unexpected impasse:

So who is it with egg on their face? A real Tory MP or thousands of left-wing retweeters of a piece of fake news?

(Or me for overestimating the accuracy of the website?)

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Make Hay while the author signs

In Spring an old man's fancy turns to books.

According to Heinrich Wallau, writing in The Catholic Encyclopedia:
Gutenberg was the son of Friele (Friedrich) Gänsfleisch and Else Wyrich. His cognomen was derived from the house inhabited by his father and his paternal ancestors "zu Laden, zu Gutenberg". The house of Gänsfleisch was one of the patrician families of the town, tracing its lineage back to the thirteenth century."
<autobiographical_note theme="Wikipedia strikes again">
Ever since 2009, when I saw a Stephen Fry documentary about Gutenberg (that link is to iPlayer's TOUGH BANANAS page – the programme is no longer available) I have wondered about the status of Gänsfleisch. Was his name Gutenberg or was it Gänsfleisch? And I wondered why, when Fry touched a Gutenberg Bible and said he had gooseflesh, he didn't exploit the pun (Gänsfleisch means gooseflesh).

A partial answer (the surname thing, not Fry's self-denial [perhaps explained by the lamentable brevity of the mini-series – I wonder what other gems were swept up from the cutting-room floor]) comes from an examination of Wikipedia's source
His surname [my emphasis] was derived from the house inhabited by his father and his paternal ancestors ...
Wallau's word was cognomen. Johannes was as much Johannes Gutenberg as Leonard Woolf was Leonard Hogarth  (whose business just took its name from Hogarth House). I imagine the wikipedioscribe saw cognomen, wondered what it meant and looked in some benighted dictionary that went for tight-lipped and simplistic one-word "equivalences" such as's

... without bothering to read the rest of the definition.
I have a note that "Gutenberg pre-sold  in Mainz"; I have no source for that snippet, but he was at least born in Mainz – so-called not because of its nearness to the Main river, but still the coincidence is pleasing). Today the hub of the universe, in the matter of pre-sales of books, is the Book Fair at Frankfurt am Main the Frankfurter Buchmesse).
Maybe this week's Book of the Week was sold there (that is non-German book rights). It bears all the hallmarks of a tolerable but not quite good enough translation, with near-miss malapropisms (like consistent for constant [on Monday]; today's was "war-horses need to be attuned [sic] to gunfire" – not habituated/accustomed/inured...?)

And another sign of translation rights having been pre-sold is this sort of illustration...

...or quotes such as this:


Sometimes translation is not really possible; some texts need to be localized as well. And international book fairs such as "Frankfurt" (to use the jargon of the publishing business) do their best to ignore this. It's in the interests of the Foreign Rights Seller to say that everything will be hunky-dory, and leave it to the poor translator to make a fist of it.
Ah well. I have more to say but DIY to do. Stay tuned.


PS And here's a clue:
  • Sounds like it calls for retreads all round? Too late for that. (10)
Update: 2017.06.02.16:45 – Added afterthought.PPS

A recent televising of a Maigret story reminded me of the name Quai des Orfêvres – the legedary (not to say inaccurate [but cp "Scotland Yard"]) address of the Direction Régionale de Police Judiciaire de Paris . When I first  read Simenon, I just let the address wash over me: Orfêvres was a name, tout sec.

But it slowly seeped into my understanding of the word that it was built from or (of course) and fèvre; to quote the French Wikipedia page 'ancien terme désignant un ouvrier travaillant le fer...'. In other words, Orfêvres means GOLDSMITHS
But why not  Fêvres d'Or? I don't know, having cunningly avoided the History of French paper for reasons possibly explained elsewhere in this blog, but boiling down to sloth on my part...
(and I do wish more speakers of English would observe the distinction between on the part of  and on behalf of – even the BBC does it [with notable, not to say noble, exceptions]. It's got so that I am starting to doubt myself. Collins suckered me into a sense of self-righteousness with this:

But then they hit me with the sucker punch:

Oh well: yet another  solecism that I shall forever avoid but increasingly hear.
... but I expect it's something to do with the Strassbourg oaths, discussed elsewhere (with an important proviso here) which divided France between languages that put the defining word first (Neuchâtel) and that put it second (Châteauneuf).
The original users of that wharf, at one time home to La Police Judiciaire, were Goldsmiths

Finally. another snippet from Lingo, which ends each chapter with a word that has no direct "equivalent" in English. The chapter on Icelandic ends with this: Jólabókaflóð. Erm...

I'm sensing a whiff of The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax. I concede that English has no one-word equivalent, but in what sense is this "one word" (except in the trivial orthographic sense that it has what Primary school teachers used to call a fingerspace at each end [with obvious exceptions for punctuation marks])? If I were to say "Yule book flood", that would be  a phonological word. So what's the big deal? The multifaceted Victorian literato/diiplomat Eça de Queiroz noticed this flood (tanto livro!) in the (as yet) untranslated Cartas de Inglaterra (a sort of Letter[s] from America, but written by a Portuguese observer, writing for a Portuguese newspaper, and based in England.).

Update: 2017.06.02.21:45 – Added PPS

PPS What has this to do with the price of fish? you may well ask. Well earlier this week I heard an interview with Jane Goodall, whose observation of chimps "fishing" for termites with a stripped rod showed that tool-making was not a specifically human activity. The pre-existing belief  was epitomized (that‘s one for the etymologists) in the book Homo faber , and it was the Latin faber (the root of fèvre) that brought the Maigret memory to mind. Though this seems madness yet there is method in‘t.

Update: 2017.06.26.20:55 – Added PPPS

PPPS That crossword clue answer: RETIREMENT. And here‘s another:
  • If opened, cynical deal with DUP‘s a way of guaranteeing this. (10,3,6)

Monday, 22 May 2017


Time for another of my periodical looks at Harmless Drudgery‘s vital statistics.
In  Oct 2016 I wrote of the previous 2 years and 3 months:
It would be unrealistic, I think, to expect a similar near-doubling readership over the coming 9 quarters;  and, besides, it takes quite a bit of (writing) effort to maintain interest – which is at odds with the original purpose of the blog [which, longer-term visitors will know, was to support my other writing efforts].
In April 2015, in a PS to this) I had written of a record average of daily visits of 55. Well, 55 schmifty-five. The average for this month so far is about four times as much – over 200. The trend started about Christmas 2016, followed by another up-tick at Easter 2017, leading me to think that maybe my key demographic was teachers, who saved their recreational blog-reading for the school holidays, but page visits in May are already (after about two-thirds of the month) almost as high as the total for April (5,147).
HD stats, courtesy of Blogger
And while we're on the subject of numbers, I have long felt something that grates on my ear as "just American"...
(pace Susie Dent, whose Americanize!: Why the Americanisation of English Is a Good Thing on Radio 4 last Saturday neither was  particularly persuasive nor had to be; I don't need persuading. I prefer -ize myself where admissible – certainly NOT in the lamentable cases of *televize or *analyze, for example  And incidentally, I suppose the inconsistency of that programme's title [Americanize but Americanisation] was intentional)
...needed further attention – preferably on the basis of numbers. My source as usual is the British National Corpus (BNC) and its much bigger and more recently updated transatlantic cousin the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA). My first three searches seemed to confirm my prejudice:

sooner rather than later (just click and sit back while BNC does its thing) 65
sooner than later (just click and sit back while BNC does its thing)
sooner than later (just click and sit back while COCA does its thing) 105.

QED. Sooner than later could be assigned, along with I could care less (and incidentally I don't buy Steven Pinker's irony argument – but I don't have time to trace the reference, given the length of the grass) to the Expressions that don't make sense in American English pile.

But COCA is more than five times the size of BNC, so I might have expected a frequency for the preferred form of more than 5 times 65 – well over 300. So I looked again in COCA.
sooner rather than later (just click and sit back while COCA does its thing) 486
So what was demonstratum was not what was demonstrandum. Based on those corpus figures, sooner rather than later is more than 10 times as commonly used by British English speakers/writers than sooner than later. But among American English speakers/writers the predominance is similar; just more less pronounced – less than half the ratio of sooner rather than later to sooner than later. And perhaps the preference is on the wane – taken up by a smaller proportion of linguistic ground-breakers on this side of the Atlantic; the sort of comparative-historical corpus query that could prove that though is beyond me.

Enough. Biomass destruction is the hors-d'œuvre of the day, and the mower awaits.


PS – a clue to be going on with:
  • VIP? Mark; a nut, when crushed. (6,5)
Update: 2017.05.22.22:40 – Added PPS

PPS – Whoops; got the polarity of the comparison wrong, fixed in bold.

Update: 2017.05.26.14:10 – Added PPPS

PPPS – I said I'd write more about Americanisms. I find it hard to say anything new, because I've been fighting this prejudice for so long and in so many different forums.
(And there's another one – pluralizing of words with a clear Latin provenance. I'm with Fowler on this one, as I've said before. He wrote:
 ...that all words not English in appearance are in English writing ugly and not pretty, and that they [HD: Latin plurals] are justified only (1) if they afford much the shortest or clearest, if not the only way to the meaning ... or (2) if they have some special appropriateness of association or allusion in the sentence they stand in.
A consequence of the practice of using English endings is that you avoid solecisms such as syllabi; incidentally, for what it's worth – not a lot for writers of English – the Latin plural of syllabus is syllabūs [or a u with some such diacritic – we didn't need them for the exam, so like any self-respecting school-child I ignored them.)

A few years ago I wrote here:

...Less well-informed commentators go so far as to say - when asked the difference between authorise and authorize -
No difference at all ... only that americans spell it different cos they feel the need to be different . The correct spelling is with an -s-

Oh dear. In one such discussion I said
There's nothing unBritish about the spelling 'apologize'. It has been the house style of The Times for well over a hundred years, and is used by many large and influential publishers (Oxford University Press, for example). I'm tired of being accused of flirting with modernity and excessive American influence, just because I use a spelling that millions of British people use (so long as they haven't been got at by generations of school-teachers peddling misinformation).
That may have been true of The Times at the time of writing, but 'the times they are a-changin''. A few cases of '-ize' pass the scrutiny of the subs' eyes - especially when there is a strong etymological justification - as in the case of 'baptize' (where there is a zeta rather than a sigma in the original Greek); but fewer and fewer.
But to quote the Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors

The first line is crucial:

WHERE verbs can be spelled with either an -ize or -ise ending...

American and British English speakers simply disagree over that can: not, say we, in a case like televise; to give it a z would be to suggest that there was the noun or adjective telev - and if you televized something you made it either more like one (in the case of the noun) or just more televvy (in the case of the adjective).

The rest, as Professor Brian Cox might say, is science (sic).