Thursday, April 27, 2006

if it's a pet peeve, it's like one of those pets that turns on its owner one day and eats him alive

I understand that 98+% of readers may well have no problem with "impact" as a transitive verb,* and that many think the rest of us are just being diction snobs. At least for me, though, it's like some kind of allergen. I read it, and my face winces up like someone shoved lemon wedge in my mouth. And, as is the way with many allergens, I appear to be incapable of building up a tolerance to it.

My usual method of pointing this out to students who would have me read their work is to circle it and offer some friendly-toned little comment. Empirically, however, this has had zero effect on the probability of students using impact, v. trans in subsequent papers I am asked to read. For repeat cases, I think now I might try buying a pen whose ink is the color of dried blood and scrawling "YOU HURT ME EACH AND EVERY TIME YOU DO THIS" in maniacal looping cursive instead.

* Hypothetical examples: "I wonder how Jeremy's little rants about ASA impact his career prospects" or "I wonder how the more inane anonymous commenters on Jeremy's blog impact his mental health."


Anonymous said...

Verbing weirds language.

Anonymous said...

Oh come now, if it weren't for us inane anonomi, it wouldn't be half the fun!

Tom Volscho said...

It shouldn't get to your mental health because you are just producing a forum where debate can occur and sometimes debate gets ugly. You've told me how you think rates of mental illness are higher in academia. Academics are what, nerds. Big egos that fight over little things like how many stars are next to a tiny number in a column of other numbers. Its all so silly in the big scheme of things. Plus you already have tenure!

Tom Bozzo said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tom Bozzo said...

I'm totally with you on this one, Jeremy. It's less "diction snobbery" than the sort of language that should be confined to management consultancies' reports escaping containment and infecting what might purport to be real discourse.

(Maybe, like your brilliant rhetorical device from the replication paper of pointing out how economists devised a system that overcomes power relationships in information-sharing [implicitly, despite our famous combinations of institutional snobbery, power-fixation, and ultra-competitiveness], the best way to deal with "impact" v. trans. is to wage a viral campaign the upshot of which is that supposedly smart people with elite PhDs or aspirations to PhDs sound like SUV-driving, business managment BA-holding jerks who made fun of them in high school.)

In my line of work, verb forms derived from "incentive" carry a similar mental health risk.

dorotha said...

why would you tell me this, jeremy? now i just want you use impact as a verb all of the time. just because of how it will impact you.

dorotha said...

why don't you just post something stupid about SOAP? that will make you feel better.

tina said...

You are SO talking about my paper. Damn!

nina said...

I like how you have these words that you hate. How you circle them on papers etc etc.

May there be a double standard, however? A quote from one of your recent emails: " any case, we should touch base soon..." Or something to that effect. I checked to see if the "despised" word had left your hate list. It had not.

jeremy said...

Anon, 8:04: Yes, ultimately, I love my inane anonymous commenters, although not as much as the non-inane anonymous commenters.

TomB: That's a great idea. I will try writing comments that identify "impact" with various especially-despised elements of the bourgoisie.

Dorotha: I see through your desire to have more and more posts about SOAP.

Tina: No, I haven't yet started your paper.

Nina: I know, it's weird how "touch base" has creeped into my vocabulary despite myself.

Mike Shanahan said...

while we are at it: the verb "grow" applied to anything other than an organism. As in "we should grow that specialty within our department." Ugh.

Maybe it's even correct usage--I have not looked into it in any detail--but using grow that way ("we can grow this company!") really does make me carsick. I am not kidding.

Corey said...

I'm depressed and confused now (duly noting that the confusion is my normal condition.)

I didn't know that impact should not be used as a transitive verb. [For the record neither does Merriam-Webster Online:

Main Entry: 1im·pact
Pronunciation: im-'pakt
Function: verb
Etymology: Latin impactus, past participle of impingere to push against -- more at IMPINGE
transitive senses
1 a : to fix firmly by or as if by packing or wedging b : to press together
2 a : to have an impact on : impinge on b : to strike forcefully; also : to cause to strike forcefully
intransitive senses
1 : to have an impact
2 : to impinge or make contact especially forcefully
- im·pac·tive /im-'pak-tiv/ adjective
- im·pac·tor also im·pact·er /-t&r/ noun


Is this a personal thing (like George H.W. Bush and broccoli), or did a miss something in Strunk and White? [I hate pointing out my ignorance on the web, but hey, I need to learn somewhere.]

Inquiring minds and such...

jeremy said...

Corey: impact, v. trans should be in the dictionary, since so many people use it. But, like I said, there is a small subset of people out there (of which I am one) who are viscerally harmed each time they see it. An analogy would be that they sell peanuts in the grocery store, despite the fact that if you fed peanuts to everybody you would kill some people. You could say that, given its frequency of use, I should just "get over" my problems with v. trans, but it would be like telling someone they should "get over" their peanut allergy.

Anonymous said...

You don't have to get over it. But part of you will be stuck there as language willy-nilly flows and grows along its serpentine course. There you'll be, moving along for the most part -- yet stretching, stretching till 'POP' ! -- the stress reaches a snapping point, and you'll go on writing blogs like this one, dear Sisyphus.

Kieran said...

You can write a phrase like "my face winces up" and yet you hector us about usage?

jeremy said...

"Winces up" was me trying to be cute.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, well I am the decider, and before I go nukular, I'm gonna tell you these few things:

1) Our children is learning.

2) Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream.

3) I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family.

4) You took an oath to defend our flag and our freedom, and you kept that oath underseas and under fire.

5) Those who enter the country illegally violate the law.

6) Wow! Brazil is big.

7) We look forward to hearing your vision, so we can more better do our job. That's what I'm telling you.

8) The best place for the facts to be done is by somebody who's spending time investigating it.

9) And the second way to defeat the terrorists is to spread freedom. You see, the best way to defeat a society that is — doesn't have hope, a society where people become so angry they're willing to become suiciders, is to spread freedom, is to spread democracy.

10) Who could have possibly envisioned an erection — an election in Iraq at this point in history?

When you have a preznit who butchers the language on a regular basis, it don't exactly embiggen the linguistic ambitions of your student type people.

Gwen said...

Well, as I admitted recently on my blog, I'm sort of insane about language, and my obsession with correct grammar is steadily becoming worse. My biggest pet peeves at the moment are constructions that imply "society" is animate--i.e., "Society thinks," "Society tells us," and so on. When I see that, or the phrase "in today's society," I actually become short of breath.

You know how sometimes a person will be stung by bees several times and nothing happens, but really an allergy was building up, and then one day they're stung and they just die? I'm afraid that one day I'll see "In today's society" and my throat will swell shut and I'll suffocate.