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Verb Police: To Architect or Not to Architect?

samuel johnson looks it up.bmpYesterday we were intrigued and slightly befuddled to read on our sister mediabistro.com blog FishbowlNY of Backpacker magazine editor-in-chief Jonathan Dorn‘s description of recent work on the magazine’s website: “Since last September, we have been architecting what our readers said they wanted: more multimedia content, GPS-enabled hikes, current gear reviews, and loads of interactive trip tools.” While “GPS-enabled hikes” sound like something we’d like to try, we had trouble getting past Dorn’s use of the verb “to architect” when describing web design. To get a better handle on the verb, we looked to that dictionary of dictionaries, that settler of many a lexical cage match, the Oxford English Dictionary. Here’s what it had to say under architect, v.

To design (a building). Also transf. and fig. Hence architected ppl. a., designed by an architect; architecting vbl. n. and ppl. a.

The references listed, beginning with an 1818 usage by Keats, all refer to buildings in some way, with the exception of a 1913 description of a man who had “come out of the prison-house of theological system, nobly and grimly architected.” Our Verb Police verdict? Save “architecting” for the architects and try “creating,” “building,” or our personal favorite, the wonderfully elastic “designing.”

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