Talk:impact

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The previous verb definitions, while they are indeed gaining widespread acceptance, are highly problematic. Just because something has a long history of widespread usage doesn't make it English; see e.g. "there" meaning "their", "should of" meaning "should have", "could care less" meaning "couldn't care less", etc. The older, and only non-controversial, use of impact as a verb is the meaning I have added: "to compact or compress", as in teeth, feces, soil, etc. I am adding a definition for "impaction" as well. (I'm not trying to be a prescriptivist prick about this, but I really think that the use of "impact" in place of "affect" is a weasel word on par with "attrit" meaning "reduce by attrition"; it's an invention of pundits and salesmen.) --Mrnorwood 14:20, 21 August 2006 (UTC)

Television has the ability to decrease literacy and to increase error. It decreases literacy by distracting people away from written material. It increases error because it provides a widespread model of speech or behavior which is quickly and widely imitated. In the late 1970s, various words that were used by information technicians began to spread to the general public. Such words were online, front end, multitasking, crash, and impact. Since many people hadn't seen the difference between the spelling of the words affect and effect in print, due to their low interest in reading, they were not able to tell the difference between the two. "Impact" became a substitute for "affect" and "effect" and was used by people who appeared on television. This rapidly led to its widespread use. Today, hardly anyone uses the words "affect" and "effect." If they do use them, they are frequently used incorrectly. They have been replaced by "impact."Lestrade 22:55, 21 September 2006 (UTC)Lestrade
I completely disagree. --Connel MacKenzie 22:56, 21 September 2006 (UTC)

Do you completely disagree that impact is commonly used as a substitute for both affect and effect?Lestrade 01:52, 23 September 2006 (UTC)Lestrade

Commonly? Yes, I completely disagree. A few select idiots does not mean something is widespread. --Connel MacKenzie 21:11, 22 October 2006 (UTC)


I agree with Lestrade. I work with various Federal government agencies, and I see many well-educated persons misusing the word 'impact' in the way Lestrade describes. Hardly anyone uses the words 'affect' or 'effect' today. The colloquial definition should probably stay, although its use bothers me. Hildenja 18:58, 20 March 2007 (UTC)

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage, which has actually done research on this issue rather than just spouting opinions, says that the origin of "impact" used to mean "affect" or "effect" is literary, and gives examples from Christopher Morley and the Times Literary Supplement -- sources that can hardly be called illiterate or television-related. This origin should not be surprising, since figurative language is common in literature, and is usually not remarked on.

What happened is that a perfectly respectable usage of a word, created by a standard linguistic procedure, became associated with politicians and business, and other people started avoiding it. People then invented explanations about how it arose in order to cast aspersions on those who use it. But other quotes in the MWDE are from the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Google News returns 200,000 hits for "impact", and scrolling through the pages you can see that most of the uses are the figurative use, and they come from diverse newspapers from numerous English speaking countries. The idea that this use is confined to "a few select idiots", or that it is a mistake similar to a spelling error, is demonstrably wrong.

All of this has no place in a dictionary, though. The label "colloquial" seems to have been attached so that somebody could present their POV about the word, but it is a real use of a real word, not confined to illiterates, and it should appear in any dictionary of English.

• The misuse I hear most often is the TV weatherman saying, "Tampa will be im-pact'-ed by the tropical storm." In my culture, the accent on the first syllable means "affected by" and the accent on the second syllable means to have an obstructed bowel. - Hearne 2/2009