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RHETORICAL TROPE #6: Anthimeria

These days, the use of “anthimeria” is so common that its existence as a specific trope goes almost as unnoticed as the term itself. We do it whenever we use an adjective as a noun, or a noun as a verb, and so on.

Tinserthe most common form of anthimeria, by far, is the verbification of nouns. (There! I did it! Did you notice?) Case in point: “impact.”

Years ago, for example, the word “impact” was nothing more than a good, old-fashioned noun. Events had impacts; impacts were the result of actions. However, at some point in the recent past, “impact” became a verb and rather than wonder what global impact would arise from the Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes breakup (hint: none,) people began instead to ask how that divorce would “impact” the world (another hint: not at all.)

“I didn’t just pencil you in… I inked you.”

To be sure, there was much torn hair and gnashed teeth over the matter, but the verb “to impact” wormed (yes, “to worm” is a verb) its way eventually into the lexicon and, today, crying foul for such usages as “this weather is impacting on my schedule” only gains one a reputation as a language snob.

Having won the “impact as verb” battle, however, the unruly pioneers on the borderlands of language usage, went on to establish its use as an adjective, as in the recent Forbes magazine article that asks the question, “Are You an Impactful Leader?” Should we brace ourselves for a follow-up article with an accompanying questionnaire that will allow the reader to determine their “Impacticity Quotient?”

Whether “impactful” becomes widely accepted or not will be determined by future generations who will eventually find themselves wrestling with words such as “impactfully,” “impactitude,” or, dare I suggest, “impactitization,” which currently garner 154,000, 334 and – thankfully – no hits at all on Google, respectfully.

As we often note, real creativity in writing arises from the selective bending or breaking of rules. Proper usage can be boring. It’s so much more exciting and memorable to note that US athletes medaled 104 times at the 2012 Summer Olympics, than merely having won all of those signs of excellence.

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