Tuesday, May 13, 2014

2225 Feck Smarm

Do you ever encounter words you've heard for years and have them suddenly snag on a root in your brain's river of consciousness and say, "Huh?" I do.

Like recently I was listening to some news story and they characterized the guy they were describing as feckless. "Feckless?" my snagged consciousness said, "What's that?" 

What precisely is a feck and how do you have more or less of it? Is the opposite of feckless feckful? Like fearless and fearful. Or does feckless already imply a lot of feck. Like countless means beyond count?

So off to the interweb to consult the etymology and regular dictionaries. Feckless means weak or ineffectual. As in a politician was feckless in his attempt to pass significant legislation. It comes from the Scottish fec, f-e-c-, which is an alteration of effect. 

So ineffective and feckless are two ways of saying the same thing. Although I think ineffective is a stronger way of saying it. So you could say feckless is feckless language-wise, unless you're counting shortness as being more effective and concise. Then feckless would be its opposite, which would not be feckful but feck-tive.

Still, it's nice to imagine that Feckless and Hapless came from two Scottish buffoons named Feck and Hap. 

Another word I snagged on recently was "smarm." As in smarmy. It means gushing and flattering behavior. Ingratiating. Unctuous. Sort of a roving suck-up. Smarm the word is another alteration. A mispronunciation of the word smalm, which meant to smear the hair with an oily pomade. 

So "smarm" came to mean smear with flattery.

And "smarmy" the description of a person behaving that way generally. Interesting to note we describe a creepy toady in terms of  a hair product. 

Is he a man or a mousse?

America, ya gotta love it. 

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