The noun disconnect

The English language changes. It’s a fact of life. Much as grammarians and pedants would love for it to stay the same, it changes. I understand that change is inevitable—I don’t have to like the change, though.

I have finally embraced the verb impact, and I still cringe when someone says something was [insert adverb] unique (e.g., really unique, very unique, so unique). I realize, of course, I’m fighting an uphill battle. I’m not quite as extreme as some are, though. I don’t impose arbitrary grammar “rules” (no split infinitives, no ending a sentence with a preposition).

Shifts in usage irk me if I see no logical reason for them. I’m okay with calling stewards and stewardesses flight attendants, as it apparently gives their job more dignity, and it also saves me the trouble of distinguishing genders. I’m okay with people using the term sick to substitute for what used to be phat, bad, tubular, or groovy. Every generation has to have its “cool” words.

Why did, after Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas, harassment suddenly shift from being harassment to harassment? Why in 2002 did people start using the word disconnect as a noun? I swear before 2002 I had never heard a single soul say “There was a disconnect between….” All of a sudden, the past six years, I can’t go a month without hearing someone say “There was a disconnect” or seeing the phrase written in a blog or news article. I get a mental shiver every time I hear it.

I never thought I’d be a “Good old days…” person, but I do miss the days of disconnect as a verb, which I rarely hear now. Could you please disconnect the phone?


  1. Working in a corporate environment, I have to cringe my way through a lot of terrible new buzzwords. My current least favorite is the dreadfully generic “impactful.”

    I wonder if the use of disconnect has something to do with the rise of technology? Because it is sort of like technological metaphor for what we would have called a misunderstanding Back In The Gold Old Days(tm).

  2. Lost the battle over here with concede (an intransitive verb when I was a lad). Football (soccer) commentators fell in love with the word used as a transitive verb. Concede a goal, a corner, a free kick etc. and worst of all, news readers love to ‘concede defeat’ ! Arghhhhh… that still grates as an abuse of the English language. In my mind I can only translate that as ‘to agree to give up defeat’. Does that mean I’ve agreed to win? My former Enlgish master (if he is indeed deceased) will be spinning in his grave.

  3. @themcp
    Your dread of impactful is understandable, as impactful is not a real word. Unfortunately, my disdain for the noun form of disconnect is completely unreasonable, as something can apparently be “a disconnect” and be completely grammatically correct.

    Don’t know if it’s just an American thing, but Random House’s dictionary says it’s okay for concede to be used transitively as well. Grammar does sometimes differ from country to country.

  4. Hey, does anyone else remember when the word “text” was a noun? Nowadays, my son suggests we communicate through “texting”.

    Other words I feel need to be removed from the English language include:

    and go back to saying “healthy” and “tasty”?

  5. arbitrary word dislikes are one of the great joys of being a writer.

    how about this one: acclimate or acclimatize? use the former, hate the latter. REDUNDANT. yet both are good usage. it’s just that extra syllable i can’t stand for some reason.

  6. @ubuntucat.. yes, well it is a long time since the swinging ’60’s and even my 70’s edition of the concise Oxford places it as transitive (but with a poor definition). But my old English master, W G Bebbington MA (Oxon) would get in a right two and eight whenever he heard or read particularly that ‘such and such conceded defeat’. He would clutch his chest and have a mock seizure, then produce a toy cap pistol from his cupboard and proceed to shoot the offending culprit/text. He would then proclaim the verb to be intransitive and that even if it WAS transitive conceding defeat was a totally incorrect use of the verb.
    Nothing quite like a British eccentric, eh?

  7. AMEN.. wth? upon hearing this usage for the umpteenth time, i had to google “disconnect as noun” and found this post. glad i’m not alone on this one. is it so hard to say disconnection? perhaps lacuna? discontinuity? disparity? irregardless of all this, i guess “anything” go’s these day’s. hahahaha

  8. The prex. of the uni. where I teach told us we need to attend a meeting in which to discuss “the way that the University operationalizes its mission” AARGH!

  9. Chris, that’s exactly how I ended up here as well. I must hear “disconnect” used this way everyday, and it drives me up a wall. The odd thing is that I can’t remember people using “disconnection,” “disparity,” etc. to this extent before “disconnect” came along.

  10. People, in a desperate attempt at sounding hip to the technosphere, picked up on a few mistaken uses of “disconnect” and pounced on it as a trophy or scalping. Use “disconnect” as a noun and you’re so technical now it hurts, literally. Many geeks have no clue how to write!

  11. Sean,

    No, the definition you give is of “disconnection” not “disconnect”.

    Disconnect as a noun is slang, whether you like it or not.

  12. I have heard “relevancy” a lot lately. Why not just “relevance”?

    And maybe it’s just me, but I also hate the word “utilize.” Use, don’t utilize.

  13. Chris, you hit on one of the most annoying “words” ever: irregardless. It’s irrespective or regardless, not both. And can we please retire the phrase “at the end of the day”??

  14. I too am annoyed by that trend of using “disconnect” as a noun. I don’t even know my “parts of speech”, but I know when something doesn’t sound right, and when everyone keeps saying it like parrots. I thought I was the only one. You get to hear this crap a lot on NPR, unfortunately.”At the end of the day” totally sucks, only because everybody keeps biting it off the next guy. Be original! switch it up a little! What’s the deal with “sort of” i.e. “sort of angry” “sort of stopped” . Sort of this and sort of that. It’s okay sometimes, but does everybody have to sort of do it? I think we got it from the UK. Finally, why do NPR folks love to start sentences with the word “so” so often? Q: Why does China modify it’s currency Jack?” A: So what happened in 1945…blah blah blah”If you listen,freakin’ EVERYBODY’S doing it, and that’s what makes it so bad. It gets tiring.

  15. I blame Arnold. I swore this was popularized by the gubernatorial run by Schwarzenegger. Here in California, one of his early taglines was, “there’s a tremendous disconnect…”. That was the first place I heard it, the the unfortunate snowball.

  16. Yes! Yes.

    ‘Disconnect’ as a noun irritates me no end but that seems so unreasonable – given that language naturally changes, given that there’s no real confusion over meaning – that I’ve not found an appropriate forum in which to give vent to my irritation. Until now. I don’t know exactly what it is, but I think perhaps that it’s more to do with the *way* that the people who use it do so. It just has a certain faddish ring to it that wants taking down a peg or two. Presumably sometimes the novel-sounding removal or addition (looking at you, ‘irregardless’) of a syllable gives a word a satisfying zing to it in the ears of the kind of thrusting young professionals who brought us such gems as ‘action’ as a verb and ‘moving forward’ as a prefix for any statement, in any tense, at any time, in any place, regarding anything.

  17. I thought I was the only one bothered by the use of did connect as a noun. I am glad to know that I am not alone. Changes in language are inevitable, I suppose, but some annoy me more than others.

  18. THANK YOU!!! I cringe every time I hear “disconnect” used as a noun, and lately I’ve been cringing (for multiple reasons!) every single time I turn on the “news.” I turned on CNN for two minutes tonight and I heard 4 news anchors say “disconnect” as they were [still] [endlessly] defending “the media” against claims [insults] that “the media” is not always truthful and not always unbiased. Wow. My brain is FRIED from all I have heard this week. All the little grammatical mistakes and annoying usages of words that I can usually just shake off–well, my shaker-offer is just plain worn out. What refuge!–what comfort!–to find this blog right when I needed it! Thank you!

    Even though, like you, I first heard that “noun” around 2002, and I KNEW it was not a “real” word, I refused to even look it up until now, because it bothered me TOO much! I distinctly remember being at Willow Creek Church in 2001 (the hub of Christianese and “cool” words and ultra-trendiness), and hearing person after person proudly and pretentiously saying the word disconnect, as if it were some exceedingly intelligent noun.

    But I digress! I am actually quite distracted and disconnected from what I need to be doing right now, so I will stop myself before I say too much. Suffice it to say, I have a LONG list of grammatical mistakes and strange words and phrases that bother me tremendously. It’s nice to know I have a place to go if I need to blow off some steam! I, also, was taught that “unique” should not be used ubiquitously, and should never be used with a qualifying adverb such as “really.”

    One of the things that bothers me most of all, is when people say and write “I” instead of “me.” I am saddened each time I hear a pastor or professor or politician say “between you and I.” I cannot count the many times I have seen a friend post a photo on Facebook and write some sentence about how it is “a photo of my wife and I.” It is really quite simple! “I” do something; something gets done TO “me.”

    Even as I sit here writing this, I find myself employing many linguistically evolutionary things!! I do hear it; I do see it; I do know and accept that it is inevitable. But to what extent?! Thank you, for giving me a place to vent :) You have no idea how much I have held back! ;)

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