feckless

Wikileaks revealed that Hillary Clinton dismissed Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi as “feckless.” So, what’s a “feck” anyway and why would you want one?

Since the 15th century “feck” has been used in the regional English of Scotland and northern England to mean ‘Operative value, efficacy, efficiency’ and hence also ‘vigor, energy.’ The OED cites John Galt’s 1823 work, Ringan Gilhaize III. xviii. 169: “Your laddie there’s owre young to be o’ ony fek in the way o’ war.” Apparently “feck” is a variant of “effect.”

Somehow the short, sharp “feckless” seems more dismissive than “ineffectual”; doesn’t it?

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One Response to feckless

  1. lexiekahn says:

    Thanks to Mac expert Deborah Shadovitz for introducing me to the dictionary and thesaurus on the Mac. I’ve had a Mac for over a year and disdained the built-in reference sources, assuming they’d be, you know, feckless. The thesaurus happens to be the quite potent Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus, which offers thought-provoking mini-essays on favorite words by ten noted contemporary authors. Here’s playwright David Auburn on “feckless”: The obscene-sounding first syllable gives punch and an air of harsh condemnation to this synonym for irresponsible, conveying “not merely irresponsible, but also unforgivably blithe, and, in one’s blitheness, causing great harm.”

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