Monday, July 18, 2016

Impactful: NOT A WORD!

In the last year, I've heard the word (not-word) "impactful" used, mostly by social workers. Lately I've noticed it's use becoming more prevalent in other areas. I've seen it in PUBLICATIONS.

Impactful is NOT a word!!! It may have become the "orientated" (I still cringe) of the last decade, but at present it is not in the OED. As a language purist who enjoys coinage, I cannot get on board with "impactful." Why? It ignores the logic of suffixes. The addition of "-ful" to "impact" does not create the meaning that "impactful" has developed colloquially.

As noted by Grammarist, an online resource for simple English language grammar, spelling, idioms, and linguistic paraphernalia, "the suffix –ful means full of, and impact is not a quantity and hence can’t fill anything." Grammarist mistakenly argues "ful also means having the quality of,"and "impact bears the secondary sense the power to make an impression, [sic] and such power can be a quantity." This argument falls flat because the suffix "-ful" is not, as asserted, limited to quantity or quality. In fairness, Grammarist is attempting to counter arguments against the use of "impactful" on the basis of the meaning of "-ful;" however, the argument fails to examine the breadth of meanings of "-ful." The argument is not fully formed and therefore an insufficient dismissal of "impactful" on the basis of the meaning of the added suffix. (A quick Google search offers many more meanings for "-ful," all of which ought to be explored before dismissing the dismissal of "impactful" as a word on the grounds of suffix.)

Grammarist resigns itself to "impactful" entering our cultural lexicon, like it or not, without offering an argument of its own against the improper construction and use of the word. Though implicitly agreeing with detractors like myself, arguments against "impactful" are reviewed and debunked, albeit poorly, landing, as previously mentioned, with a shoulder shrug, an acquiescence.

As I mentioned, I enjoy coinage. New words delight me. They must, though, adhere to the rules of  the language in which they appear, notwithstanding the adoption of words from other languages- a murkier area into which I will not wade right now.

Impact is a noun. Impacted is an adjective. Impact is not a verb; colloquially it is used as one, yet that usage seems less offensive to many than "impactful" as an adjective.

Impact, the noun, is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as: 

a. The act of impinging; the striking of one body against another; collision. Chiefly in Dynamics, in reference to momentum.
b. fig. Now commonly the effective action of one thing or person upon another; the effect of such action; influence; impression. Esp. in phr. to make an impact (on).

Impacted, the adjective, is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as:
1. a. Pressed closely in, firmly fixed.
 b. Applied spec. to fæces lodged in the intestine (cf. impaction n. 2); also transf., applied to (a part of) the intestine when so blocked.
c. Applied to a bone fracture in which the broken parts are driven together so as to become locked.
d. Applied to a tooth which, owing to obstruction by another tooth or by bone, fails to erupt properly and remains partly or wholly within the jaw-bone.
2. a. That has impinged upon or struck something.
b. That has been struck by an impacting body; also fig. (U.S.) of an area: affected by a larger demand than usual on public services, esp. schools.

Impactful is not an entry in the Oxford English Dictionary, a living, breathing dictionary that adds new words regularly, purporting to be descriptive not prescriptive. Yet "impactful" is not an addition.

Impactful, the sometimes adjective, sometimes adverb, as used colloquially and as defined by online sources (not appearing in legitimate dictionaries,) is defined as: having a lot of power and influence.

The word does not adhere to the meaning of its root. Why does this matter?

In a nutshell, "impactful" is not an acceptable coinage because it defies the rules of English.

For anyone who prefers pop culture answers to those more snootily studious (I don't deny the snobbery of my objection to "impactful," "orientated," "irregardless"; I do assert the correctness of my objections,) the fabulous Urban Dictionary offers these top two excellent anti-definitions:

A non-existent word coined by corporate advertising, marketing and business drones to make their work sound far more useful, exciting and beneficial to humanity than it really is. This term is most frequently used in "team building" seminars and conferences in which said drones discuss the most effective ways to convince consumer zombies to purchase crap they clearly do not need or even want.

Something that conveys significance. 
I.e. utter marketing gash, its [sic] words like this that make society bad and help meaningless marketing plebians [sic] ascend the rungs of their pointless evil careers and step on anyone creative in their path. For shame marketing ... for shame.

Oh, Urban Dictionary, I want to kiss you hard on the mouth for the exquisite impact of your definitions!

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