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Sudden, unnecessary impact

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But don't try to exsanguinate a turnip:

“Stop talking about ‘debeaking' a chicken. Instead let's call it ‘beak conditioning.' … The ‘backup killer' in a poultry plant — the worker who kills birds missed by the automatic killer — should be called ‘knife operator.' Rather than saying a bird has been ‘bled' to death, call it ‘exsanguinated.' ”

The poultry industry hopes to polish its image, evidently. The advice quoted above was given by a speaker at an Arkansas Poultry Federation meeting. Personally, I'm not sure that knife operator is much of an improvement. Makes me think of Mack the Knife Operator. Exsanguinate clouds the issue thoroughly, and I suppose that's the idea. Avoiding clarity is a popular pursuit, in government as well as agri-business. The Bush administration seeks to eliminate Social Security, and calls its effort “reform.” That's what the poultry processors want to do with chickens — reform them, so they'll fit nicely in cellophane-wrapped packages at the supermarket.

A reader finds John White, chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, less than plain-spoken. He quotes a statement by White: “People whose opinions of the university are impacted negatively are obviously missing the bigger picture of what is happening on our campus.”

Reader says, “Anyone who writes ‘impacted negatively' apparently doesn't know obscure words like ‘harm.' ” He also deplores the use of impact as a verb generally. I'm with him on “impacted negatively,” but it may be too late to stop impact as a verb in all cases. Random House says the usage is now “entirely standard.” Some stylists still object strongly, however, on the ground that affect and influence don't need any help. If Reader wants to fight on the beaches, etc., he has my admiration if not my company.

Coincidentally, a co-worker asked if impactful is legitimate. I said it's not in my vocabulary or my dictionary. She said she found it in an on-line dictionary. I'm bringing up reinforcements. Garner's Dictionary of Modern American Usage says that impactful is “barbarous jargon” and “a word to be scorned.” That's telling it.

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