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curmdgeon.GIF (1254 bytes) Curmudgeons' Corner

Rob Naylor wishes to criticise the use of critique

As a Brit, I find it annoying that our media and academics have started using the noun critique as a verb. There's a perfectly good word, criticise [British spelling], to describe the action of producing a critique.  I assume that this is another transatlantic import, and I wonder whether it grates on literate Americans as much as it grates on me. Is critique used as a verb regarded as normal usage in the USA?

Actually, it has been a verb since 1751 (well, that's the earliest recorded instance), while the noun dates from 1702.  Since that time the noun has meant "a critical essay or analysis" and the verb "to write a critique upon".  However, even the revered H.W. Fowler, in The New Fowler's Modern English Usage, is quoted as saying, in 1926, that "there is some hope of its [critique the verb] dying out", so you are not alone in your curmudgeonliness, Rob.  A slightly different sense has arisen fairly recently (1969) in the U.S.: "to judge critically, to make a critical assessment of, not necessarily in writing" and, as you say, seems to have caught on in the U.K. Criticize, of course, has attained a more negative meaning than that and so is not usually substituted in that sense.

Have you heard or read similar or equally distressing usages?

Do tell us. 

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