Mad Men recap: Roger says "impactful." Is that a gaffe?

Mad Men, Season 5

Anachronism Check: "Impactful"

Mad Men, Season 5

Anachronism Check: "Impactful"
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May 15 2012 3:32 PM

Mad Men, Season 5


Anachronism check: Roger's use of "impactful."

Roger Sterling (John Slattery)
Roger Sterling (John Slattery)

Still by Frank Ockenfels/AMC.

This just in! Ben Zimmer heeded the Mad Men anachronism bat signal I sent up in my post this morning, weighing in with a definitive email about Roger’s use of “impactful.” Zimmer, an authority on these matters, gives the usage a certificate of authenticity, writing:

I caught Roger's use of "impactful,” too. Though the word didn't really take off until the '80s, it was certainly in use in the mid-'60s. I checked the databases for examples from 1966 newspapers and found these:

"Maritime Union Wants Rent-Free Housing," Victor Riesel (syndicated column), Delaware County (Pa.) Daily Times, June 9, 1966
"So there is impactful significance in Curran's trade unionese ..."

"Perlmutter 'Captures' City," John Neville, Dallas Morning News, Sep. 22, 1966
"His prints are perhaps more impactful because of the sharpness of their delineation."

" 'Coppelia' With Style at Bushnell," T.H. Parker, Hartford Courant, Oct. 24, 1966
"Mr. Collins is the epitome of the dancer noble, as soloist and partner, easy yet impactful, masterful in technique."

"Unruh Doubts Reagan Can Cut State Costs," AP wire story, Los Angeles Times, Nov. 21, 1966
"I personally feel that they have not done that and that there is a necessity to see if we can't find a more dramatic, a more impactful way of doing it." (Quoting Jesse M. Unruh, speaker of the California State Assembly)

I bet Weiner and co. checked it out first before having Roger say it.


Whew! I am glad to know Roger is as nimble with au courant jargon as he is with jokes about Judaism.

Julia Turner Julia Turner

Julia Turner is the editor in chief of Slate and a regular on Slate’s Culture Gabfest podcast.

I’ve got to start carrying less cash.