Tuesday, January 17, 2023

"Invested" versus "investitured"

 Okay, let's get trivial. 

On Sherlock Holmes's birthday this year, I was corrected when I said something about new members of the Baker Street Irregulars being "investitured" when given their shilling and Canonical investiture (our fancy word for nickname or title). My corrector, who shall remain nameless, stated that the correct word was "invested."

I mentioned this in a blog post, and later got an e-mail from someone whom I would deem the highest authority on Sherlockian doings, just because he's been one of the top living Sherlockians as long as I knew there were top living Sherlockians. Do I have to drop the name? Okay, it was Peter.

He cited the long history of usage of the word "investitured" from Morley to Smith to Wolff, and its appearances in letters going back to 1949 and The Baker Street Journal as far back as 1958. And even though dictionaries are thought by some to be the last word on what is a word, I've always been one of those who contends usage is the true defining factor. If you say it to someone and they understand, it has served the purpose of a word.

But once Peter brought up historical usage, I had to head to the trusty Google Ngram Viewer to dig a little deeper. And, what's this? An 1868 poem by George Lansing Raymond?

1912, 1918, 1922 . . . folks from all sorts of fields love turning "investiture" into a verb. And why not?

To say that Michael Kean "invested" Cindy Brown this year sounds like he traded her for stocks or bonds. It does have a second definition meaning to endow someone with something, but we rarely hear of that usage, at least in my circles. And while "investiture" is defined as the act of investing a person with some honor in dictionaries, and set as a noun, I think I have suffered through enough people turning other words into verbs in my lifetime to get a little payback with "investitured." And I'm plainly not alone.

The best place to find the list of honorees on the web is Sherlocktron.com which makes "investitured" their main use and demotes "invested" to a parenthetical. The BSI Trust website includes both but reverses the priority. BakerStreetIrregulars.com ONLY uses "investitured." But wait! Outside our humble Sherlockian confines? The Anglican Diocese of the Trinity, the Antelope County Clerk Magistrate's office, the new president of Albany State University, Curtis Armstrong's IMDB page . . . need I say more?

I think the "investitured" horse is out of the barn and not going back in at this point. So I'm running with it from now on.

1 comment:

  1. I believe it was the late Susan Rice, beloved by all, who insisted on 'invested' over 'investitured'.