No, it could not, because ‘impact’ is not a verb

Recently, The State led an editorial off by citing a headline in the Charleston paper:

A RECENT HEADLINE in Charleston’s Post and Courier asked: “Could Bobby Harrell’s departure impact Charleston’s road money?”…

I read no further, but immediately emailed Cindi Scoppe to say, “The answer to the P&C’s question is ‘no,’ because ‘impact’ is not a verb. (I later went back and read the edit. You should, too; it will make you feel even better about Jay Lucas being the new speaker.)

But I’m still harrumphing about the P&C headline.

Then, this morning, I saw a Tweet that said:

SCOTUS’ Same-Sex Marriage Decision Could Impact SC

To which I could only respond, “No, it could not — because ‘impact’ is a noun, not a verb. :)”

I added the smiley face because the Tweeter does not know me. Wouldn’t want her to think I’m an unpleasant person or anything.

Yes, I know I’m fighting a losing battle. I know that people who employ this abomination think that it is a verb, and can probably cite all sorts of authorities to support them. Doesn’t matter. I refuse to accept it.

There is something about “impact” used as a verb that for me invokes the most stilted, bogus, officialese. People think it sounds authoritative, official, like something an expert would say. It’s like, I don’t know, cops calling everyone a “subject,” or saying they “observed” the “subject” doing this or that. I actually don’t mind that as much, though — I can appreciate a cop trying to distance themselves from the incident with technical, unemotional language. “I observed the subject exiting the premises at a high rate of speed,” sounds more like the voice of law and order than, “I saw that stupid jackass with my own eyes, running off like a scalded dog.”

But “impact,” used as a verb, affects (note the way I used the right word there) me differently. Every time, I hear the voice of someone who is trying to sound smart, but instead is coming off as illiterate. To me, anyway.

Yeah, I know I’ve mentioned this before. But it bugs me every time, and sometimes I just have to say something…


7 thoughts on “No, it could not, because ‘impact’ is not a verb

  1. Kathryn Braun Fenner

    Many distinguished linguists have no problem with using “impact” as a verb. English is a language that changes with use, and no native speaker would have any trouble understanding “impact” as a verb.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Many distinguished linguists speak in a highly stilted manner. Which is what I’m on about. No one with a feel for the language uses “impact” as a verb, except ironically.

      It’s an aesthetic thing. No matter how many rules are written saying it’s OK, it will not sound right…

  2. Abba

    I have a similar reaction to the application of the verb “grow” to an inanimate object, as in “to grow my business” or “to grow the economy.” It sounds ostentatious and affects me differently (in Brad’s words) than when the same word is applied to living things, as in “to grow flowers.” It just bugs me.

  3. Brad Warthen Post author

    Initially, given the context of that Tweet, I was going to write something like.

    I know that “impact” as a verb is gaining wider acceptance — that it’s legal in many states and that polls show it gaining favor among all demographic groups, especially young people.

    But I just can’t accept it. “Impact” being a noun, it should only be paired with a verb, not with another noun. If we accept “impact” as a verb, what’s next? Will we condone “parent” as a verb?…

    But then I kind of ran out of steam, and decided that no one on either side of the issue would find it amusing…

  4. Brad Warthen

    Another way of explaining my objection to this, although I’m reluctant to say it because it sounds dismissive of a class of people…

    There’s a certain kind of person who uses “impact” as a verb A LOT, and that kind of person does and says many things that set my teeth on edge. I see these people as responsible for propagating this usage.

    And when other people do it, it’s like they’re trying to be the people who bug me so. And that’s not a good thing. Makes me feel like the human race is headed in the wrong direction…


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *