Friday, August 22, 2008


Hapless. Hopeless. Right? But even if so, what would it mean to be feckful? Full of feck? What's feck?...

'Feckless' does mean lacking in character or deternination. Feeble. Weak. And it turns out that 'feck' is an obsolete word meaning value, or effect. Wonder why that word went out of our general knowledge, when 'feckless' didn't. Although I admit that to use feckless in everyday conversation is also uncommon.

Delving further into the word feck, I find all kinds of interesting tidbits. For one thing, at the time of Robert Louis Stevenson's writing, which was not all that long ago, the meaning was common enough that, in his short story Thrawn Janet, he refers to a 'feck o' books', meaning a quantity or great quantity of books. And Robert Burns uses the phrase 'the feck o' my life,' meaning the greater part of my life.

The word, both its appearance and disappearance all become clear or clearer when you understand that feck is a kind of Scottish variant or dialect of 'effect'. Which was probably obvious to anyone with a more sensitive ear than mine. So a feckless person is an ineffective person. Feck and feckless drop from our more common language in favor of ineffective, or ineffectual, and effect or effective.

One place where feck has not dropped into the background as of yet is Ireland. Probably understandable in a country that uses the English language but is in rebellion against English domination. Also a country with strong Celtic ties to Scotland and a history of intermarriage.

In Ireland, 'fecking' is used to hold the same place in a sentence that a harsher expletive we all know is used. But it doesn't actually have the sexual connotation of tht word. I am guessing that it is a little like substituting 'darn' for 'damn', in that you can use it in the same way, and it can substitute for a word some might find offensive, but isn't actually connected in terms of meaning.

Well, I sense that I'm getting in over my head here, speaking of matters I know not of, so I'll stop for now.


  1. Thanks for this info; I've always been a bit intimidated by this word, fearing a feckless attempt to use it properly.

    Now I have more info and confidence.

    Thanks from America.


  2. Thanks for stumbling on this and taking the time to comment, Mark. Good luck in bringing it into the conversation--I don't think I have since writing this post...

  3. 2 very good words - feck and feckless. I doubt I will be able to use it but will keep them in mind...just in case.


  4. Good luck with that, PDJean.It isn't as easy to work into conversation as one might hope.