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I use it all the time since I work with databases, but every time I write it somewhere with spell check I get the squiggly line below it. I've seen other people spell it with an "s" instead of a "z" but neither have an entry in the Merriam Webster dictionary.

Is this just technical jargon or am I misspelling it?

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'Denormalize' or 'denormalise' are both fine, just like 'deserialize' and 'deserialise'. And you can definitely put any of these in the past tense by adding 'd'. My web spell checker has just red-underlined all four of these words which I'll ignore. Deserialisation is clearly a core concept in any discussion about persistence of digital information. Spell checkers just don't know that! –  Lisa Aug 24 '11 at 0:07
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5 Answers 5

up vote 11 down vote accepted

The -s vs. -z is a British vs. American spelling convention. Anything with the suffix -ize is spelled -ise by people following British conventions.

As for whether or not it's a word, I believe its meaning is transparent from its productive morphology:

  • normal
  • normal + ize = to make normal
  • de + normalize = to undo the normalization

So, using "de-" usually has a meaning that some previous normalization process is being undone. But I think it might still be acceptable if there was no explicit normalization process, but what you've done is take an intrinsically normal object and removed its normal property.

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It's not a normal word, but it's perfectly legitimate technical jargon. (If you were in the medical profession, half of the words you used would be flagged by a spellchecker.)

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The prefix de- is a fairly productive one, and can be applied pretty freely to most verbs which it would make sense to affix it to. Normalize (in the sense of databases) is one of those words. The absence of a word formed by a productive affix (such as de- or non-) in dictionaries should not be taken as impugnment by the editors of those dictionaries that they are not, properly, words.

As for -ize vs. -ise spellings, -ise spellings are what American dictionaries would call “Chiefly British”, although it should be noted that some British language authorities, such as the Oxford English Dictionary, recommend -ize spellings even for British English.

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You probably will not find the word in the dictionary, but the prefix de- is used to form words; the meaning of the word is changed as follow:

  1. (forming verbs and their derivatives)
    • down; away: descend | deduct.
    • completely: denude | derelict.
  2. (added to verbs and their derivatives) denoting removal or reversal: deaerate | de-ice.
  3. denoting formation from: deverbal.
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It qualifies as a word if other people know what you mean by it. When I say "consistification", everyone knows exactly what I mean.

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Okay, I'll bite. What does "consistification" mean? –  mmyers Aug 25 '10 at 4:18
    
To make consistent. –  Gary Aug 26 '10 at 5:43
    
There's also "consistify". –  Gary Aug 26 '10 at 5:43
    
Actually "constistification" would be a noun, "the act of making consistent or the act of creating consistency". "To make consistent" would be a verb like "consistify". Just thought I'd help consistify that. –  Jared Updike Aug 26 '10 at 18:57
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Ugh. Why don't you just say "make consistent". Sure it's two words but it's going to be a hell of a lot easier to read at the end of a long day. And surely that's what good writing is about. –  Lisa Aug 24 '11 at 0:10
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