A nice lesson on usage, language change, dialects, and more!

Stroppy Editor

If you don’t like words being moved from one grammatical category to another, then you’ll hate ‘impact’.

In the 17th and 18th centuries it was a verb – yes, originally it was a verb – meaning to press or pack in tightly. By the late 18th, there was a noun form too, meaning an impinging or a collision. The verb form seems to have pretty much died out by the 19th century, during which a figurative noun sense appeared, meaning an effect.

The literal and figurative nouns gradually picked up steam and are still going strong, but in the first half of the 20th century new verb forms appeared too: a literal sense meaning to come forcibly into contact and then a figurative one meaning to affect.

It’s this last usage, which has only really taken off since the 1960s, that draws the most ire these days.

Let’s have some…

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