Mar 26 2014

Feck and Feckless

Published by at 11:47 pm under creative writing,Journaling

What the Feck?!

In this morning’s newspaper editorial Jonah Goldberg described a particular presidential phrase as “utterly lacking in feck.”  I thought:  what the feck?  I’ve heard of feckless but had never come across the root word on its own.

I have a pretty extensive vocabulary thanks to my father who required that I regularly complete the Reader’s Digest “It Pays to Increase Your Word Power” challenge. For those not in the know the Reader’s Digest word power  was a monthly multiple choice quiz featuring ten difficult, often obscure, words.  My father, who was a Latin scholar, could complete it with 100% accuracy every time. As a grade-school student, I was not as lucky. For every wrong answer I had to memorize the word, its spelling, the meaning, and then be able to use it in a sentence by the end of the week.  Fortunately for me, my father described his method of isolating the Latin root of each word to make an educated guess from the possible answer choices.  My word power definitely increased.

When I saw the word ‘feck’, however,  I was stymied.  It reminded me of my father’s penchant for using the word ‘couth’ to describe people with manners. Usually it is customary to only identify uncouth people.  My father argued that if there was an uncouth, then there must be a couth.  Following his reasoning, I looked for ‘feck’ in my big dictionary. Turns out Dad was right. If you can have feckless, there must also be ‘feck’- a word that means value or worth. Someone or something feckless is, by definition, without value.

Goldberg could easily have written “a feckless presidential phrase” but he didn’t. He chose to go with something unusual to emphasize his opinion and, perhaps, jolt the reader into paying attention. It worked !

I wonder how many more common derogatory terms have a positive side. I’m going to be on the lookout for them. I might even try to use one in a sentence.

And in case you’re wondering, ruth (the opposite of ruthless) is also a word!

This week, have fun playing with words….


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