Many distinguished guests were present when the new Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, took the oath of office recently. If we are to believe the newspapers, not one of those guests received an invitation. Let me hasten to clarify. I didn’t mean to imply that these eminent personages were one merry band of gatecrashers, only that (according to reports) each one of them received not an ‘invitation’, but an ‘invite’.
Like most other ‘nouned’ verbs, ‘invite’ joins a long list of words that inspire responses ranging from rage and annoyance to bland acceptance. “That’s just how people talk now,” said a young acquaintance, implying that I, like others who are sticklers for correct word usage, was a fuddy-duddy.
Although there is good cause to argue against the use of ‘invite’ as a noun – mainly that we already have ‘invitation’, a perfectly good word – and however much it grates on the ear, the assumption that this is a recent development is simply wrong. A little digging into the antecedents of ‘invite’ turned up the surprising revelation (not ‘reveal’, please note) that the word made its first appearance as a noun way back in the mid-17th century.
Two examples listed in the venerable Oxford English Dictionary: “1659 H. L’ESTRANGE Alliance Div. Off. 326 Bishop Cranmer... gives him an earnest invite to England” and “1818 LADY MORGAN Autobiog. (1859) 39 We have refused two invites for to-day. Ibid. 292 For Monday we have had three dinner invites.”
Additional examples from the early 19th century onward are easily found. The word might be marginally more common in the last few years because of the tendency toward brevity in social media and text messaging, but it is far from new.
Of course, while ‘invite’ as a noun is sanctioned by historical usage, some people still consider it informal or even incorrect, so the more formal-sounding ‘invitation’ is the safer choice where you need to be taken seriously. The prejudice against ‘invite’ might be based on mistaken assumptions, yet we can’t ignore it.
The gurus blogging at www. grammarist.com add an additional bit of information that is intriguing; if they are to be believed, ‘invite’ as a noun is pronounced differently from the verb. The verb is in-VITE, while the noun has the accent on the first syllable –IN-vite. Dear reader, your call.