Friday, January 21, 2005

Effect vs. Affect, round two

Servant's comments reminded me of a couple of lines from a poem I wrote years ago:

words are periscopes
submarines collide

Thanks for checking with your professor, amanda, but her first sentence addressed common usage, and as we know, my readers are exceptional. ;-) Seriously though, in this section she appears to support my stance:

When you mean "to bring about the result" (instead of to influence), "effect" is the verb: He effected the change (He brought it about--he didn't just influence it)

Effect is the verb for bringing about a result. While there is apparent conflict between her first and last sentences, it is only in the area of whether these words are used commonly or in specialty discourse. Since she specifically addresses effect as a noun and affect as a verb, it is does not bear on the point, since I am addressing the case where both are verbs.

This example, however, I must differ with.

The weather affected the availability of tomatoes in our stores. (influenced; verb)-- frequent usage

At least using Merriam Webster, we conclude that she means the weather cultivated, feigned, tended toward, or frequented the availability of tomatoes. That makes no sense, and in this case I think it is correct to use "effect" in that the weather caused to come into being a shortage of tomatoes.

Given that I had to insert the word "shortage" into the example, this supports the idea that we are all using the words incorrectly much of the time. The verb "effect" comes with requirements that we often fail to meet. Probably it's better to say that the weather influenced the availability of tomatoes, or better yet, led to a tomato shortage.

CJ is correct in her comment that language is a pliable, evolving structure. Lamarkian. It's odd that I appear to be in the "proper usage" camp on this issue, as my stance has always been to tell the language prudes to get bent. My vehemence here is actually a counterpunch against the language prudes. You can use "affect" to say that the ear influences the body if you like, just don't by thunder tell me that the dictionary proves you are right, and I am wrong to use "effect." The dictionary backs me up. Don't tread on me.
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