Joho the Blog » smugness

May 3, 2012

Impacted by conflicted

For me, “impacted” refers to an unpleasant dental condition, and cannot be used as a verb. So, given my grammatical self-righteousness on this point, I was chastened to read a column written by William Safire sometime in 1989-1991 (in his anthology In Love with Norma Loquendi) criticizing the use of “conflict” as a verb. He cites a psyhotherapist who says, “Conflicted as a verb is fairly recent.” It had not occurred to me that I need to make an ass of myself about that word as well.

On the other hand, Safire points out that in the sentence “He felt conflicted,” “conflicted” is a predicate adjective — “a past participle used as an adjective after a linking verb” — and thus isn’t being used as a verb. But it is a verb in the sentence “Therapists have to work on resolving what conflicts the patient.”

Since I don’t understand predicate adjectives well enough to be sure I’m right when I denounce someone for misusing a term in a way that no one cares about and does not matter, I will simply have to amp up my sneering tone in order to raise the stakes on pushing back against my criticism.