“Disappear” is the new “impact”

I’ll bet some of you are already twitching. That’s good. Very good.

If you’re not twitching, perhaps the use of “impact” as a verb doesn’t bother you. I’m not sure why you’d be reading this, in that case, but whatever. All right. Verbing weirds nouns, as the saying goes. I’m all for usage like “an impacted wisdom tooth,” which is a long-standing medical special usage. I am NOT all for usage like “the latest civil unrest in Poughkeepsie has impacted the stock market.” No, sorry. It has affected or influenced the stock market, maybe. Not impacted it. Even though Garner classifies this as a stage 3 shift (well on its way to being common, but “still avoided in careful usage”), he still cautions against it. “Reserve impact for noun uses and impacted for wisdom teeth” (Garner’s Modern American Usage, p. 445).

This brings me to “disappear.” I’m noticing a disturbing trend (particularly in marketing and advertising) toward using this word as a transitive verb (one that takes a direct object), like this example: “Washing disappears the label.”


No. NO. Washing makes the label disappear. Washing removes the label. Washing is not a dictator with labels for political opponents. The label is not “disappeared.” NO.

The only time “disappear” is used as a transitive verb is when referring, as I just did, to political situations where someone in power is kidnapping opponents or families of opponents and whisking them away, never to be seen again, or is outright killing them. “Pinochet disappeared thousands of people during his time in power.” That usage is acceptable and correct. I quote from the Encarta World English Dictionary, meaning 4: “vt. CAUSE OPPONENT TO DISAPPEAR to make a political opponent disappear by arresting or killing the person without any process of law.”

This one’s not up for debate. If I see this usage in anything I’m editing, it’s gone. It’s sloppy, not edgy. For my money, it’s also highly disrespectful to the families of those who have been disappeared. I’m weird, I know.

One thought on ““Disappear” is the new “impact”

  1. This may be “disappear’s” revenge against “went missing” (British usage?) which has largely displaced it in the press. I am annoyed, also, by the overuse of “ahead of” for “before” (“…he was appointed ahead of the coming meeting…”, etc.); particularly when referring to time (not space). Keep up the good fight! (and stay warm)


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