, I don't mind you making that point about how the term "impulse" has been mis-used by non-science types over the course of the Trek series ... but I'd thought that after such a long rant, you'd provide us with some explanation of what it does
Also, it would be my argument that, after 200+ years of utilizing a form of technology, its meaning would eventually become distorted. We see this with weapons like "photon torpedoes," after all, which may at one point (possibly pre-TOS) have had much more to do with photons than their "current" (2370s and later) M/AM descendants. Granted, they may employ photons and anti-photons to generate destructive force, but that doesn't excuse the fact that their name has become somewhat muddied over their many years of use.
A good modern example is the U.S. Navy term for shutting down a nuclear reactor in an emergency. The order is still "scram the reactor," even though the SCRAM acronym (Safety Control Rod Axe Man) is now hopelessly outdated.
Given the aforementioned 200+ years of use, modification, and development, and consequent muddying of the technical waters, I'd say "impulse" in the 24th century might well mean something very different than it did in the 22nd.
Just my 0.02.
I am willing to buy that argument. SCRAM means the same thing today (in purpose - emergency halt to reactor operation) as it did originally, even if the actual mechanism and implementation have changed. In the same way, modern steam, diesel, and nuclear ships "sail" even though they have no actual sails (or rarely do). I can definitely see "Impulse Engines" in the 24th C having the same USE (or role) as when they were actually conventional impulse engines - even though they are vastly different in actual technical operation.