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Saturday, 02 May 2009

Comments

It's a sad, sad world. Really. Especially given the lack of what would be a very useful verb.

Bah, humbug...

Those thousands of dollars depress me.

In complete contrast, I just picked up probably the best photobook bargain of the month: Taschen 25th anniversary edition of Atget's Paris for £8 sterling.

For you, it's a verb...

Hi Mike,
Dunno if you've ever been to Rockport,ME.
but Tim Whelan's bookstore should be on your list of visits when you rent my cottage when I am in Italy. No shortage of photo books here.
http://360colors.com/mmw808/Whelan-Bookstore/index_swf.html

Dear Mike,

I think it's a fine verb, but OED doesn't have it. So it is either incredibly obscure, very recent, or original with you.

BTW, 'curmudgeon''s origin is unknown; first citation for it is late 16th Century. Spelling's varied (surprise!) but meaning's pretty much the same.

pax / Ctein

"Never get in a knife fight with a man with an OED."

Mr. Johnston,

Artist, Critic, Literary Maven, and now, truly a Smith of Words.

Bron

I heart how you make a headline tangential to the article.

My daughter always proclaims that her dad has his own rules of English..."Any word other than A, AN, & THE can be used as any part of speach!" [chuckle]

You can verb anything.

Mark,
True, but some of them I cannot get used to. "To impact"? No....

Mike

P.S. Dale, that's a very cool link. I love those moving panoramas.

Mike

Camp's first rule (of everything): nearly any noun, muttered in the right tone of voice, can be converted to slang for a woman's breasts:
Look at the hubcaps on that one; look at the garbanzos on that one; look at the Kodaks on that one; look at the popsicles on that one; look at the cabbages on that one; look at the hooters on that one; and so on. The exceptions are words that could be possible slang for other female body parts; it's not that you can't use it for breasts, it's just that it might be confusing: look at the cans on that one; look at the wheels on that one; look at the USB port ...well, maybe not.

JC

True, but some of them I cannot get used to. "To impact"? No....

Well, lucky you're not a doctor and you don't have to use phrases like "impacted fracture". :-)

Seriously, the verb use predates the noun use by almost two centuries. 1601 vs. 1781.

What I find offensive is the words like "proactive" and that has been in the language for almost a century.

"Seriously, the verb use predates the noun use by almost two centuries. 1601 vs. 1781."

That's comforting to hear. Maybe it will help me get over my aversion.

Mike

Dear Erlik,

Can't find that in my OED. Want to give me a source citation for the verb form? (Maybe I'm spelling the verb form wrong.)

OED has first noun use as 1574 (not 1781), but it gives no verb form at all.

pax / curious Ctein

This is reminding me of Richard Buckminster's "I seem to be a verb."

"'I seem to be a verb.'"

John,
Not to mention a family of carbon allotropes. [g]

Mike

Here's verb form at Merriam-Webster and here's the noun form.

My Collins cites both a noun and a verb form, but from C18, no exact date.

Online etymology dictionary confirms the verb date, although it's not clear where they got it. And it meant "to press closely into something," very close in meaning to "impinge". The "forcefully strike" meaning comes from 1916, though.

The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology says impact sb. XVIII. f. impact-, pp. stem of L. impingere IMPINGE.

And here's another source that says the verb was used at the beginning of the 17th century, although where they pulled that out from is anybody's guess. And they do kinda confirm that 1916. date for the meaning people generally use now.

erlik is correct, but that's the problem: impact is being used as a verb, but incorrectly, or perhaps indiscriminately.

You'll notice that every definition for the verb form gives as an example a medical, or "technical" use. That's no accident since the verb form is supposed to be used to describe the physical coming-together of objects.

What is in vogue, especially in corporate circles (though I hope it's so in vogue as to be soon out-of-vogue) is to sound "high-tech", and thus many an e-mail to one's boss has included sentences like:

"Making this change will impact at least one of our downstream processes."
--when "Making this change will AFFECT..." would have worked perfectly well.

I think "impact" as a verb was appropriated, consciously or not, by people who wanted to sound more "technical", and by extension more intelligent.

"I think 'impact' as a verb was appropriated, consciously or not, by people who wanted to sound more 'technical,' and by extension more intelligent."

jchristian,
Most probably--sort of like everybody now uses "image" in place of "picture," a woeful development in my opinion. (And I loathe the word "imagery" for "pictures.")

In the case of "impact" I think it's also a case of, well, impact inflation--"affect" is just not a very forceful word, and in addition people get confused between "affect" and "effect." This weakness leaves an opening for a harder-hitting word to sneak in.

Remember that famous definition of cursing--"the inarticulate mind attempting to express itself forcefully." Cf. also the number of words that once had more subtle definitions that have been appropriated to mean "good," because plain "good" was never good enough--starting with "great," which originally just meant big. People always go for words that have more (sorry) impact.

Mike

Dear Erlick,

Oops, my error!

I thought you were talking about "curmudgeon" and "curmudge!"

Never mind. [smile]

pax / befuddled Ctein

(P.S. Does one make someone 'befuddled' by 'befudding' them???)

"Making this change will impact at least one of our downstream processes."
--when "Making this change will AFFECT..." would have worked perfectly well.

Mike is right that "affect" is not a very forceful word. It is, in fact, a sinuous and slinky word. "It starts to affect me..." Mmmmm. :-) Why do you think Hunter S. Thompson used the famous phrase "I'm 3 hours outta barstow, when the drugs start to kick in." Talk about force.

But!

What is wrong with "will have impact on"? Nothing.

Man, word geekery on TOP. :-)

Mike - the affect/effect confusion has gotta be part of it. I didn't think of that. Most of us fall into patterns, and rather than puzzle over whether to use "have an impact on", "will affect", "cause an unexpected effect", etc, people go with "Dear God, this will negatively impact us all!" ;-)

erlik, that's a great quote/example. "...when the drugs start to affect me" does not have the same... kick!

Oh, and here's another dubious one:
"Let's LEVERAGE the results that the other team got and use them in our process."

Once again, there's a verb already: LEVER. It's all about sounding technical.
If one really has to use the term in this way, you could write "We might save some time if we lever off of the previous results." Or "There's leverage to be gained from..."

Aargh, I give up. Yes, I know most people do not care, and the world keeps spinning...

"Aargh, I give up. Yes, I know most people do not care, and the world keeps spinning..."

Well, don't give up. The world spins and the language changes. Sometimes, I admit, I choose not to write the "proper" form because it's unidiomatic. But lots and lots of what I've learned about proper usage comes from encountering words used well in print and orally. So when you use a word correctly, you pass along the priceless heritage of the best thinkers and speakers who preceded you. Reason enough to do it!

Solidarnosc,

Mike

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