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With apologies to Vietnam, Watergate, and Iran, the most certain sign that modern civilization is going to hell is its invention of IMPACTFUL. The earlier arrival of the verb TO IMPACT, rather like that of Rosemary’s baby, was a birth so diabolical as to herald an imminent and near-universal perdition. Today, finding an evaluation in which nothing is IMPACTED would rank with bagging a live platypus.

IMPACTED was, in fact, the only form in which a verb “to impact” ever appeared for some four centuries. IMPACTED was useful for hundreds of years in geology, surgery, and a few other fields where things were frequently jammed in between, or up against, other things. Otherwise, IMPACT went about only as a noun, meaning, in the succinct definition of the Oxford English Dictionary, “the striking of one body against another; collision.”

But the word proved restless in a restless century, and soon traveled far from home. It has by now lost any trace of precision, and lately seems to refer indiscriminately to anything that has any effect whatever on anything else.


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