language and words in the news language change and slang

In summery [sic]

© STOCKBYTERight, I have a question for you – did you ‘Christmasize’ your house for the festive season? And did you correctly ‘ovenize’ the turkey before you put it on to cook? I ask, because in the aftermath of the cold-induced train-stuck-in-the-tunnel debacle, I heard an interview in which a representative of a certain train-company-that-shall-remain-nameless talked about how they ‘winterize’ their trains. He didn’t go into detail, but from the context, this clearly meant preparing the trains for winter conditions.

This had me a little perplexed, since adding ‘-ize’ (or ‘-ise’, whatever your preference) to the end of a noun to turn it into a verb, is generally more about making something appear as, or turn into something different, than ‘preparing for something’ (think about demonize, or liquidize for example). By that logic, ‘winterizing’ the trains would presumably involve waxing the floors to within an inch of their lives and turning off the heating. But I’m guessing that’s not what he had in mind, and it was more about ensuring the trains didn’t grind to a halt because of the cold, leaving passengers trapped for hours on end. Hmm, must try harder….

A bit of research reveals that ‘winterizing’, in the ‘preparation’ context, is an American term, (though I’m fairly sure that the trains in question weren’t going anywhere near America!). It does make you wonder what might happen later in the year, though. Will we see the ‘Easterizing’ of public transport – trains wearing pretty bonnets, with fluffy chicks handing out chocolate eggs in the aisles? And if we’re expecting hot weather (it has to happen sometime, surely!), will the trains be ‘summerized’ too? What will that entail, painting on bikinis and slathering them in Factor 20? Or, if we follow the US ‘preparation’ implication of the ‘-ize’ suffix, maybe we’ll see ‘cabriolet-trains’, with on-board, open-air swimming pools, and all the passengers wearing goggles a la Biggles?

Wait a minute, though, isn’t there already a proper word (and spelling) for ‘summerize’ – something about shortening things? Yes, now I think about it, I’m sure there is. And I’m pretty sure most of the train companies already do that – don’t they call it cutting services, I mean ‘making efficiencies’?

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Sharon Creese


  • Dear Sharon,

    This is a strange one. I would have thought that to “winterize” something would mean to store it away for protection during the cold winter months. We do this for example with our motorbikes here in the south of Germany. A quick google search will reveal lots of websites giving tips on how to winterize a motorbike (including US websites). The German word for this is “einwintern” and when this word is used its meaning is very clear, i.e. the bike remains in the garage during the winter.

    This means that if you have understood the train company representative to have meant “preparing the trains for winter conditions”, then he/she has used the word with the exact opposite meaning! Which one is going to win the battle, do you think – the US version or the other one? Or is it simply a question of defining exactly what “preparing for winter” means – staying in or wrapping up and going out?

    And, more crucially, what effect is that going to have on the -ize suffix in future word formation? The results could be confusing!

    Thanks for the post, anyway.


  • Interesting – ‘winterize’ as a term to mean ‘store something away for protection’ at first glance seems a bit odd to me, but it does fit much better with the more common use of the -ize suffix, since you’re effectively changing it into its winter state (i.e. temporarily decommissioned). The train company rep definitely didn’t seem to be suggesting that the trains be put away for the winter, though, so I guess, as you say, it just comes down to the differences in meaning we can apply to ‘preparing for winter’. (My money, as I watch the snow falling, is definitely on hibernating!)

    As to what this means for the -ize suffix, it will be interesting to see.

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