Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Impact of Words

Is it just me, or have you noticed that the people who speak on CBC have stopped using two words, in favour of another, seemingly all-encompassing one?

It's been ages since I've heard anyone—be it a host of a show or a guest—use either affect or effect. It's as though, for the people on Canada's public broadcaster, that those two words no longer exist.

In the morning, as I listen to Ottawa Morning on CBC Radio One, it's good to know that my commute will be trouble-free as I drive to my secluded office in Gatineau. But when I hear Doug Hempstead report on the traffic, and he mentions an accident or other slowdown on the roads, I get scared.

"A collision at Merivale and Fallowfield is going to impact your drive to work, this morning," he might say.

If anything is going to impact me on my commute, it had better be insured.

The word impact, when used as a verb, can mean "to have an effect upon," but that is not its primary definition. To impact means "to strike against (something)," "to press upon," "to wedge together," or "to pack together." All of these actions are physical, sometimes violent.

That impact's going to leave a mark.
The meteor impacted the surface of the moon.

Just once, I would like to hear CBC's traffic guy say, "There's a collision at Baseline and Woodroffe, which may affect your drive home."

When I listen to Anna Maria Tremonti interview an official about climate change, I wish she would ask, "What are the effects on the polar-bear population?"

But I don't. I hear, "What are the impacts on the polar-bear population?"

And I cringe.

I understand that language is evolving. But I hope that the last bastion of good English lies with our public broadcasters. They are the ones, whose voices are heard across our great country, and they should be the ones who keep the general public educated on the power of words. How they speak will have a great influence on the listeners, and can affect the way English is used.

Public broadcasters can have an impact on what happens to a word's effect. If they turn their backs on good English, we're doomed to use expressions like extra curriculars, rather than extra-curricular activities.

Oh... wait... that's already happening on the CBC.

We're doomed.

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