Column: An argument with impact

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I will admit, I was not aware of the furor surrounding the word “impact” until I sat down to look for column ideas this week – but boy oh boy, are people passionate about this one.

The American Heritage Dictionary dates the controversy back to the 1960s, when “impact” went colloquial – morphing from a literal, forceful strike to a direct effect or influence.

According to the folks over at American Heritage, “The noun was criticized as a pointless hyperbole and as a vogue word,” and the verb form got it even worse.

A quick Internet search will show that people are still arguing over whether “impact” can properly be used as a verb even today. It’s an odd argument, since “impact” originated as a verb and didn’t gain a noun form for nearly two centuries.

Merriam-Webster and the Oxford Dictionaries both show “impact” popping up in English usage as a verb around the beginning of the 1600s. It originates from the Latin impactus, meaning “to push against.” That meaning is how we understand it in literal uses today: to strike forcefully or to press together.

The noun “impact” shows up in the 1780s. It, again, is used in the literal sense to mean a forceful contact or the act or force of one thing hitting another.

Nowadays you’re likely to see the word “impact” used as a synonym for “influence” or “affect.” One of Facebook’s major metrics pages is even labeled “Impact.” But, 50-plus years later, there are still plenty of grammarians who don’t approve of “impact” as anything but a noun.

As for me, “impact” as a verb – even a figurative verb – seems to be a done deal. It’s even passed the greatest litmus test of our time: It’s Facebook official.


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Column: An argument with impact

0

I will admit, I was not aware of the furor surrounding the word “impact” until I sat down to look for column ideas this week – but boy oh boy, are people passionate about this one.

The American Heritage Dictionary dates the controversy back to the 1960s, when “impact” went colloquial – morphing from a literal, forceful strike to a direct effect or influence.

According to the folks over at American Heritage, “The noun was criticized as a pointless hyperbole and as a vogue word,” and the verb form got it even worse.

A quick Internet search will show that people are still arguing over whether “impact” can properly be used as a verb even today. It’s an odd argument, since “impact” originated as a verb and didn’t gain a noun form for nearly two centuries.

Merriam-Webster and the Oxford Dictionaries both show “impact” popping up in English usage as a verb around the beginning of the 1600s. It originates from the Latin impactus, meaning “to push against.” That meaning is how we understand it in literal uses today: to strike forcefully or to press together.

The noun “impact” shows up in the 1780s. It, again, is used in the literal sense to mean a forceful contact or the act or force of one thing hitting another.

Nowadays you’re likely to see the word “impact” used as a synonym for “influence” or “affect.” One of Facebook’s major metrics pages is even labeled “Impact.” But, 50-plus years later, there are still plenty of grammarians who don’t approve of “impact” as anything but a noun.

As for me, “impact” as a verb – even a figurative verb – seems to be a done deal. It’s even passed the greatest litmus test of our time: It’s Facebook official.


Current Morning Briefing Logo

Stay CURRENT with our daily newsletter (M-F) and breaking news alerts delivered to your inbox for free!

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By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Current Publishing, 30 S. Range Line Road, Carmel, IN, 46032, https://www.youarecurrent.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact
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