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Impact causes extinction

by | Jul 15, 2018 | General | 2 comments

Most folks who study these sorts of things pretty much agree that the dinosaurs went extinct right after a giant meteor impact, but has anyone else noticed how impact has nearly caused the extinction of what was a perfectly serviceable if homely word?

I’m old enough to remember when impact was, for the most part, a noun, and the only things that impacted were asteroids and wisdom teeth.

It hasn’t been so long since I first noticed the word impact used in place of affect. Since I’ve made my living mostly as a newspaper copy editor (now retired, thank God), at the time I thought it was a clever way to hyper-emphasize how something, perhaps a piece of legislation, would affect the average person. In fact, I had always tried to get reporters to liven up their writing and wean them off tired fall-back hyperbolic adjectives such as the overused and usually misused massive. On that score I failed, and it continues to be a sign of lazy writing: massive fire, massive search, massive earthquake. No, kids, none of those things is massive.

Then there was the time I futilely tried to explain to a reporter why a hole could not be massive. But, I digress.

Anyway, impact took hold and spread like the flu until now it is rare to hear anyone use the word affect. Watch any weather broadcast and you’ll be told how a storm will impact your weekend. Segue to the news and you’ll be told how Trump’s trade war will impact the stock market. The word has even spawned impactful. As if we needed a new adjective.

I understand that language must evolve and new words are added every day, but I’ve always been suspicious of words that started out as nouns and somehow morphed into verbs. Don’t get me started on tasking and journaling. It smacks of cutting corners and laziness. I suppose it’s another product of social media communication, where everything is truncated or abbreviated.

Call me an old crab, if you like, but I think it affects communication, and not in a good way.

About the Author Robert Buckley

Bob’s stories have appeared in numerous anthologies, including multiple editions of Maxim Jakubowski’s Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica.

2 Comments

  1. I hear you, but then again … It’s also possible to go too far with that. George Orwell’s sixth rule of clear writing famously said: “Break any of these [other] rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.”

    Think about this, also. Has anybody really said while in the throes of passion: “Fuck me well”?

  2. It’s futile to lament the changing of language. This does not stop me from bemoaning other equally egregious misuses of words that have become commonplace, of course, but using “impact” to mean “affect” doesn’t seem like such a stretch to me.

    I do like your example of a “massive hole”, though. Never thought about how nonsensical this is.

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