photo: Scan journal

Wednesday's answers

1. about 2004 or or 6 or so it started.
    The impact issue is not a new one. even back in the days of my furiously grammar-policing mother (who in the middle of a heavy discussion would correct our perpetual confusion of "I" and "me" and then obsessively redirect the topic back to why we might still, after so many years in good schools, be confused), there was a veer toward the awkward use of impact as a verb. It seemed to begin in bureaucratic stations, on the local government level:

       We are planning an initiative that aims to positively impact on our constituency.

At least in that case, the clunk over the head of the misused verb was somewhat tempered by the frill of a long-syllable adverb.

And then my sister, who I adore and who can do no wrong in my eyes, and who works in the high levels of city government administration, began using it. So it was clear that it had inserted itself into the workaday vernacular:

       The closing of that agency has impacted the surrounding area.

No tempering modifiers here. By 2008 (my sister was promoted once again, deservedly so; our mother was no longer, undeservedly so), media behemoth CNN had come up with this snazzy T-shirt for A. Cooper: Impact Your World.

       I could hear my mother grumbling up in the sky. Low but persistent thunder. The thunder only a high school valedictorian can make.

      I hadn't remembered it was 2008 until googling (a later topic) "impact as a verb." I found Grammarsnot.

The Chicago Manual of Style (which I've often used for editing books, as it has tends to have a good impact on many a nonfiction manuscript and authors can't always argue it away) has a section for impact under Good Usage vs. Common Usage. When I renew my subscription, I'll troll through it. But posted within the second edition of Common Errors of English Usage, I found this entry:

You risk offending more people by using "impact" as a verb than you will by substituting more traditional words like "affect" or "influence."

Does anyone, however, still care about offending? My mother often asked, Do you two even care that you're using me and I wrong? By about the age of 23 I was struck by the double meaning of my confidante complaining about the sloppy execution of my complaints. But does offending even mean what it used to be? It is often used as a noun (repeat offender) as an indicator of porn (offensive) or a flung-out descriptor of so-called "left-wing brainwashing" — which I put in quotes so you do not misconstrue my own leanings — (he is offending our very constitution). Bah. The margins have so weakened that the idea of offending has as well. And CNN has not changed their narcissist's blowj*b fantasy of a headline. I think the battle to save the world of verbs from clodhoppers like this one will soon be lost, not to negatively impact your day.

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