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Thursday, January 3, 2008

Impactfully Impacting the Impact of the Transitive Verb

CNN.com has a page entitled "Impact Your World." It states under the heading: Take action! When disaster strikes or horrible events unfold, these are opportunities to effect change. Bad things happen in the world every day. But good can result and one person can impact the world.

I'm taking this opportunity to weigh in on the controversy (!) over the use of the word "impact" as a verb. Dictionary.com provides definitions for both the verb and noun forms. The American Heritage Dictionary entry reports that the use of the word as a verb constitutes a "Usage Problem." I could not agree more.

While it is reported there that the word has been used as a verb since 1635, this word has colloquially and publicly occupied a perfectly respectable position as a noun. Dictionary.com opines that the use of "impact" as a verb is an attempt by public figures to gain intelligence-respect by using the word in new or fresh way. Again, I agree.

My objection to use of impact as a verb is NOT that the use is incorrect grammatically, because esteemed sources list the word as a verb. I object to the ego-centric audacity with which people claim a new use or create a word out of thin air ("impactful," for example, in a recent car commercial). This ego-pumping, acquisitive, and unacceptable trend of colonizing nouns to become verbs started at least ten years ago but proliferated during the dot-com boom/bust ("incent" is another one with a target on his back). I hoped that the bursting bubble exploded this practice, but it has not. Who is CNN to say that I can impose my will on the world? I'm not the target audience but I appreciate the brash, fresh, youthful, hip, enabling message this sends to a bunch of people who already believe they are entitled the spoils of the entire world.

Cicero

22 comments:

Carrie said...

What's your call on "surveil" as a verb? I laughed out loud the first time I heard it, thinking that "to conduct surveillance" would be a better way to express the thought. However, the large bureaucracies I work with seem to insist on proliferating it. Is that legit??

Anonymous said...

Bowels and teeth get impacted. When one object hits another with great force an impact occurs.

All other uses of the word "impact" and its myriad machinations should be banned from the language and any writer who uses the word, when an explanation is called for, should have all her pens and pencils taken away from her for one year.

Impact is a cheap word choice by a slovenly thinker and lazy writer

johnbillsbrother said...

i bruised my elbow when i impacted the world.

Blues said...

I'm having trouble with this as I had learned that "impact" could not be used as a verb, but now I have seen it in two online dictionaries, one of which I consider reputable (Collins):

http://dictionary.reverso.net/english-definitions/impact/forced

http://www.wordreference.com/definition/impact

Anonymous said...

not only is "impact" a verb, Webster considers it both transitive and intransitive. . .

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous ("bowels and teeth get impacted"), can I have your love child?

If I thought for one second that the people who perpetrate this crime could actually write and speak properly, I might be able to swallow it. Unfortunately, experience suggests otherwise. People who use "impact" as a verb are, without exception, morons. Or to state it more politely, as the father (hopefully, since I'm woman) of my future love child just stated, impact is a cheap word choice by a slovenly thinker and lazy writer.

If Harold Bloom (just to pick a name out of a hat) ever uses it this way, I will unfurl the white flag.

Death to the impactors!

Anonymous said...

I've even seen "impactfulness" [shudder]...

Anonymous said...

How ironic. An arrogant rant about those arrogant bastards who use impact as a verb -- about the "ego-pumping, acquisitive, and unacceptable trend of colonizing nouns to become verb." Whomever wrote this has a severe mental problem. To go from a simple grammatical issue to assumptions about people who think they deserve everything in the world is just nuts. And who cares anyway? If someone wants to use impact as a verb, is this really a four-alarm national crisis? Completely nuts.

Cicero said...

Thank you, Anonymous (10/17/09) for your impactful comments. Sincerely, Cicero

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your drivel. You are a case study in "waste of time." Yet I'm sure everyone on your dissertation committee is on the edge of their seats waiting for you to resolve this international word crisis. What's the next mind-numbing project for the philosophy-of-ideal-forms word Nazi club? How about those morally bankrupt nitwits who say "very unique." Please, Cicero! Stop the madness! Whatever will we do without your penetrating wisdom?

Anonymous said...

impactability is key

ECM said...

Uh oh! Anonymous doesn't realize that "everyone" and "their" don't agree!
As my father always says, "Good grammar is free."

Hugh Coe said...

We must be more precise. It is the figurative sense of verbal impact to which we rightly object. That usage dates only to 1935, so hang the antiquity defense. More to the point, the figurative use is a vague generic usurper of real, concrete verbs. "To impact" can mean to tickle or to murder; which is it? Maybe the proposal will "impact" commerce, but will that impact be to inhibit or to promote commerce? Both are "impacts," but opposite in effect. To use impact as a figurative verb is to confess fraud. It says that I, the speaker, either don't know what will happen, or I know but won't tell, or I'm unaware that English contains 1,000 vibrant verbs specifying every possible tone and degree of "impact."

CHarvey said...

A la incent, how about my favorite colonized noun: parent?

Colin Hamilton said...

When was "party" (a sociaL gathering) converted into a verb?
I am irritated frequently by the misuse of "unique".
Why is there a superfluous "of" used so often - as in "The best route is to turn off OF the main highway....."
People who should know better in the media repeatedly confuse singular and plural as in
"The government are considering...."... "Toyota are telling the public". The business is a singular corporate body.
MEMBERS of the government might be considering, but "the government IS considering..."

"Less" and "fewer"
There are not "less troops in...." There are fewer. But there is less milk in one container than the other one.

Another irritant to me - "disassociate"! Dissociate. As for

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

The latest edition of the Chicago Manual of Style has a section entitled "Good Usage Versus Common Usage" (Section 5.202). In it they suggest that we resist using impact as a verb, except in a physical context. Its use as a verb to mean "affect" is hyperbolic, besides being widely considered a solecism.

Anonymous said...

How about your ego-pumping adoption of the name "Cicero"? Just a thought.

Jinon said...

There are two sides to this. Yes, there are nouns being turned into verbs for silly reasons, mostly to do with marketing. The reintroduction of "impact" as a verb began this way. However, "impact" has a slightly different nuance than "have an impact on." As an exact synonym for the verb "affect," it still sounds contrived ("your kindness impacted me" -- blecch). Used to describe a more forceful or direct action, it makes more sense ("this event impacted my thinking"). Which leads me to point two: Language is a living thing. Its reason for being is communication. Hence, it's always looking for ways to describe the current reality of the culture it represents. From time immemorial, nouns have been appropriated as verbs to fill perceived gaps in a language. Even self-proclaimed "grammar snots" use these verbs every day, with no idea these words were once exclusively nouns. In other words... stop taking yourself so seriously. People who want to entomb the language in concrete are fighting a losing battle.

skweeds said...

When my US Airways flight was delayed last December, I got an email titled "Flight delay impacting ...."
I found their verb choice distasteful not only for the reasons given in this blog post & comments, but also... if you are an airline company who needs to warn a person of a problem with his or her flight, wouldn't IMPACT be a word you'd want to avoid altogether? (Verb OR noun!)

Insightful post, and great comments.
Cheers!

apeymama said...

Thank you for helping me see that I am not the ONLY one in the world who notices and hates this bad language use. It is akin to those who say "same difference". It drives me nuts. Why didn't their teachers correct them? You are indeed right that impact is meant to be used (mostly) as a noun and the only acceptable verb use up until a few years ago was in reference to teeth and bowels. LOL. The reason you find it in so many dictionaries is that it has been used so long and so widely that it is coming into acceptable use. I think it takes ten years, maybe? Too bad that as long as "everyone does it" it gains legitimacy. My dad would object.

Emily R. Anderson said...

*Whoever