The noun ‘practice’ and the verb ‘practise’ are homophones that people tend to use interchangeably in the spoken and written English without thinking it through. By the way, ‘homophone’, a noun, according to the Chambers 21st Century dictionary, is a word which sounds the same as another but is different in spelling and/or meaning. For example, bear, bare, been, bin, see, sea, amongst several of the family of homophone. It does not take anything extra but an educated mind to know them and use appropriately to express one’s thought, ideas or opinions. As always, the British and American English differ on the use of the noun ‘practice’ and the verb form ‘practise’. Before I go into the detail of the seeming disagreement between Britain and America on the right or correct vocabulary, let’s dissect the statements ‘practice’ and ‘practise’ and take a stand, especially for the Standard English advocates who I normally refer to as the purists and masters of the language, and others who care less, colloquial English though, to explain better, about how they conduct themselves when choosing words or phrases to get across to the audience. I classify this group of people as all weather, they are neither here nor there. In short, for them anything goes! The expression, ‘practice’ is defined by the good reference book as the process of carrying something out, put ideas into practice.
It can also be a habit, activity, a procedure or custom. For instance, one can correctly write or speak, ‘Don’t make a practice of it! To habitually come to class late as a student’. Or that ‘female circumcision is an old custom or practice found in the remote parts of the country where people are yet to embrace the dangers inherent in holding on to the age long tradition’. One can as well practice to improve technique in an art or sport; to be in or out of practice-to have maintained, or failed to maintain, one’s skill in an art or sport etc., the dictionary emphasises. On the other hand, the verb ‘practise’ is to engage in an exercise repeatedly either in an art or sport etc., so as to improve one’s performance; to make a habit of something. For example, to practise self-control; to go into something as custom demands. There are some tribes in the world that practise bigamy, a crime though in some culture of being married to two wives or husbands at the same time, for instance.
To work at or follow an art, or profession such as medicine or law. The adjective, practising is to be actively engaged in or currently pursuing, following or observing one profession or the other, just as the practicing lawyer, a practising Christian, and the process of doing something for practise, such as practicing the piano, the reference book emphatically explains. The noun ‘practitioner’ is someone who practises an art or profession, especially, or any other labour. One would be correct to write or speak of the general practitioner in the medical field. However, for the die-hard English pragmatist there are no issues so long as the standard, or the Queen’s English and the American English compete for space or try to get our attention. Nigeria like other Commonwealth nations who by virtue of their colonial history fell under the old British empire firmly adopted the British English in all transactions and remain resolute so, and would never shift grounds or surrender itself to the Americans whether in spelling and pronunciation of the word. Also remember that the American English is drawled-the average American speaks in a slow lazy manner with prolonged vowel sounds while the British English is clipped and distinct, tending to shorten vowels. In all, the Americans do not differentiate between the noun, ‘practice’ and the verb, ‘practise.’
The American English, for instance, uses the noun, ‘practice’ for both as the verb. In other words, ‘practice’ and ‘practise’ for the American writer or journalist can be used interchangeably at one’s convenience, preferably, the verb ‘practise’. But for the British writer and journalist, where Nigeria by her colonial experience fit into, the opposite is the case. The context in which the two phrases or the two words, ‘practice’ and ‘practise’ are used must be considered to be able to scale through and to be accepted, especially for the Nigerian or Commonwealth media writer or practitioner.