I Hate the Word Impact

I’ve always hated the word impact when it’s used as a substitute for affect, influence, alter, or change. It’s one of those Big Swinging Cock Words that is supposed to make the speaker sound more manly (and possibly ‘pro-active’–another despicable word). It does have some usefulness though: in conjunction with other evidence, it helps establish that someone is an asshole.

Anyway, that’s a long way of saying that this bit in a post by Paul Krugman about tribal authority (we only listen to people we consider to be authorities*) very funny:

I suppose that in my quest to improve policy and understanding I should be trying to fit in better – lose the beard, learn to play golf, start using “impact” as a verb. But I probably couldn’t pull it off even if I tried. And as a result there will always be a large group of people who will never be moved by any evidence I present.


*I actually think it’s the converse: there are people we won’t listen to ever, although I think in a fair number of cases, that’s actually the right thing to do.

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5 Responses to I Hate the Word Impact

  1. Sean says:

    I like that phrase: “Big Swinging Cock Words”. It very clear who would use them.

    Honestly, impact as a verb has roughly 2 users that I’ll give passes to:
    – People who study crater formation or other space sciency types. Example: “That meteorite impacted at 37 degrees.”
    – Over-exuberant sportscasters. Example: “That linebacker impacted at 37 degrees.”

  2. Min says:

    If Krugman learned to play golf, he could impact the ball. 🙂

  3. Steve says:

    You just hate it used as a verb, though, right? Are you fine with the word itself when used as a noun?

  4. Vaughn says:

    If it truly is one of those BSCW’s, my imagination runs wild with NSF’s “Broader Impacts.” Bow-chick-a-bow-bow. Unless we’re talking about an enormous meteorite or a baseball bat to the unadorned dome.

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