Lurking Impactfuls

Today on the NPR I heard someone say, “even more impactfully” [link].  Knowing that anything to do with “impact” is peever-bait [of the “only teeth can be impacted” variety–see BBC Magazine: “Should “impact” ever be used as a verb?“], I was surprised to find that “impactfully” occurs unselfconsciously about once a day on Twitter, and only a handful of times in the “not a word” context. OED doesn’t yet agree about “impactfully”, nor even “impactful”. “Impact” as a noun goes back to 1781, and as a verb to 1601 (but in the figurative sense of “affect,” “influence”, only to 1935).

But that was not the interesting part about my researches. The interesting part was that, because OED Online is smart enough to tell you answers to things you didn’t think to ask (the nice “Widen Search?” suggestion), looking up “impactful” returned these buried attestations:

  • s.v “point, n.”: 2003 Asian Trader 7 Nov. 19/2 The focus on range..needs to be underpinned by impactful display at the point of purchase.
  • s.v. “trade unionese”: 1966 Human Events 18 June 9/2 There is impactful significance in Mr. Curran’s trade unionese.

And then THIS! Not in the current OED Online, but in my trusty old OED2:

  • s.v. “over-” 1973 Sociometry XXXVI. 135 A false fire-alarm went off precisely as the stimulus-subject in a severe condition was screaming from the electrical shock, providing an extremely amusing *overdramatization of an already impactful event.

[Guys! This is why you don’t suppress quotations, even if you found one (much less good one) from just a little bit earlier! Yeesh.]

All that makes a pretty solid case for a new headword, with three instances in the existing corpus, dating back to 1966. A little sleuthing would no doubt turn up earlier uses of “impactful,” Read More


The Lifespan of Words (three ways)

Getting ready for DH2017 this morning, I found myself curious about the lifespan of English words–when they come into the language and when they fall out. So I got all the earliest and latest attestation dates for all the words in OED3, and plotted them out. Here are three graphs (“visualizations,” if you like), all […]


Guest Post: Don’t go breaking (up) my genre: visualizing genre against attributes

Danielle Griffin is a research assistant on her third co-op term at The Life of Words. This is the first of a few posts based on her last work-term report,”Comparative Data Visualizations of Textual Features in the OED and the Life of Words Genre 3.0 Tagging System”. Danielle’s report won the Quarry Integrated Communication Co-op […]


How Indigenous American words came into English

I’ve been deep in the OED documentation of borrowings and loanwords for my look at “tramlines” [see my previous post, and look out for a few more to come] and OED’s treatment of foreign, about to be naturalized, and naturalized words. I got curious about some of the Indigenous American words in my dataset, and […]


||-Tripping over tramlines-||

“Tramlines”, icydk, are those upright parallel bars that OED1 and OED2 editors used to indicate that a word was “alien or not fully naturalized”. So, for instance, zeitgeist you may recognize as a word of German origin, not infrequently heard in English. In OED1 (1928) it appeared as ||Zeitgeist, and this mark was preserved on […]


Guest Post: Cataloguing the Catalogue

Cosmin Dszurdsza is a research assistant at The Life of Words. In my last guest post I discussed problematic magazine classifications. Now, once again, a periodical publication proves to be an exciting and difficult genre identification challenge. The kind of text I will be dealing with today is the “catalogue” (filtered out of our data […]


Three conferences this summer

After a baby-related travelling hiatus of a couple three years, TLOW is hitting the road this summer, with stops at Ryerson University in Toronto (just barely down the road, really) at the end of May, for the Canadian Society for Digital Humanities meeting at CFHSS Congress; then off to Barbados and the University of the […]


One last round with metadata from Hathi and Underwood

In “Hathi’s Automatic Genre Classifier” and “Hathi Genre Again – Zero Recall“, I ran a couple of experiments comparing genre categories assigned by human taggers working on the Life of Words OED mark-up project to two sources of genre metadata associated with the HathiTrust Digital Library. The first post looked at data from the automatic […]


Poetry Competition Time

As part of our OMRI funding, LOW runs an annual poetry competition, open to all high school students in Ontario. Last year’s pilot run had a few dozen submissions, from which we picked one winner, two runners up, and twelve honorable mentions, all collected in our 2016 Anthology. Last year’s theme was “write a poem […]


Shakespeare’s Earliest Citations in the OED

No author’s representation in the OED has received more comment than Shakespeare’s: if you ever come across a mention of OED citation evidence, more than likely it’s being used to substantiate (sometimes challenge or qualify) a claim that Shakespeare invented the most English words, or made up the most new meanings for existing words, or […]