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I often hear people talk of being pressurised into doing something, but I'm almost certain this is incorrect. A can of deodorant is pressurised, or a tin of beer, since in both cases the release of pressure yields a delicious bubbly beverage (in the former) or a pleasant smelling, easily applied spray to eliminate underarm smells (in the latter).

If one feels a degree of pressure to do something, does that not mean that one feels pressured into doing it, as opposed to feeling pressurised?

The term pressurised seems to me to be of North American origin (I refuse to use a z instead of an s). This seems reason enough not to use it, given that American English is a different language to British English, however I see it time and again in British English language media.

There seems to be little in the way of consensus on other parts of the internet so I thought I might ask here.

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    @used2025161 I believe it's a BrEng/AmEzng thing, "pressurised" being chiefly British – Elian Nov 18 '15 at 14:38
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    I have never (here in the US) heard someone speak of being "pressurized" into doing something. – Hot Licks Nov 18 '15 at 14:39
  • Have you been drinking deodorant again? – Brian Donovan Nov 18 '15 at 14:39
  • @Brian, yes - I think we may need a question on the meaning of "former" and "latter"! And I must say that I have never heard that expression in Canada either. – Michael Broughton Nov 18 '15 at 14:41
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    People are pressured to do things they don't want to do. Substances are pressurized in order for them to take up less space. – Ricky Nov 18 '15 at 16:06
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The full OED says pressure as a verb is originally a N. American usage, which they define as...

To apply pressure to, esp. to coerce or persuade by applying psychological or moral pressure.

The more "standard" form pressurize/pressurise, which can also be used with that specific figurative sense, is more likely when it's a straightforward literal usage relating to actual gas pressure (atmospheric, etc.).


It's worth noting that there are only 9 instances of "Don't pressurize me!" (AmE spelling) in Google Books, compared to 54 instances of the BrE version "Don't pressurise me!" (these numbers have to be considered in the context of an estimated 2,670 results for "Don't pressure me!").

  • Yes - I think people in Britain do say pressurised to mean that someone has been coerced. I agree that it should be pressured (or even pressed) - but I had assumed that pressuris(z)e was American-led. – WS2 Nov 18 '15 at 17:56
  • @WS2: I'm quite happy using either word in the figurative sense. I have one of those new-fangled "isolated, hermetically-sealed" central heating boilers with minumum operating pressure higher than atmospheric. I have to re-pressurise the system several times a year via a valve to the main water supply (because of slow leaks, I suppose), but although I'd understand re-pressuring it, I don't think I'd ever use the verb in that literal sense myself. Having said that, I think we're at the absolute margins of "How precise is English?" here. It ain't really that precise. – FumbleFingers Nov 18 '15 at 18:30

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