Thursday, November 22, 2007

David's Definitions for December '07 and January '08

Inflammable

(Appeared in the December 2007 issue of Community News)

Something is inflammable if it tends to ignite at commonly encountered temperatures. Other English words that come from the same Latin root are inflammation, inflame, and inflammatory. At one time, trucks hauling materials that could catch fire easily had signs on them saying INFLAMMABLE. However, too many people apparently thought that flammable means "easily set on fire" and that those the loads on those truck were not easily set on fire. So now such trucks have signs saying FLAMMABLE. That's not really a word in English, but presumably, because of those signs, it soon will be, and inflammable will disappear.



Feckless

(Will be in the January 2008 issue of Community News)

An action is feckless if it is ineffective or worthless. An incompetent person could also be called feckless. It’s an old word in some Scottish and English dialects, and it comes from the word feck, which is a variant of the English word effect. So something is feckless if it has no effect. Those dialects also had the word feckful, which is the opposite of feckless, but feckful never caught on in mainstream English.


I'm collecting all of these at: http://www.dvorkin.com/davidsdefs.html

8 comments:

Chris said...

I've always loved the bit about the trucks. And I for one intend to bust out the occasional 'feckful' from now on! Two quality additions to your collection of definitions...

David said...

"Brothers the two lads were, and of an age, but one feckless and the other feckful."

I don't think I could stand to write any more. It sounds like the opening of one of those awful chick lit paperbacks disguised as historical adventure, featuring an improbably muscular and shaven-chested man on the cover. Sword of the Highland Lover, or something like that.

I don't think the powers that be should have given in with inflammable. They should have held the line. Who knows where it will all end? Maybe some day we'll see a news item about a fearsome criminal being incarcerated, and crowds will riot demanding to know why he was released instead of being carcerated.

Eventually, people will expect the winner of a presidential election to be augurated and the loser inaugurated! Oh, wait, that already happened, after the 2000 election.

Lahdeedah said...

\On Father Ted, that brit com show, the old drunk priest says "Feck" and "drink" and "girls" and "arse"

So he wakes up in his chair, looks around, and sees someone and yells "feck!"

What would Feck mean in that context?

Now, of course, we use feck in our house, because it's just a hilarious word...

David said...

According to Wikipedia, in Irish English, it's a substitute for fuck - as an exclamation, not for the actual sex act.

I assume the old drunk priest on that show is Irish?

British comedy seems to go in much more for jokes based on regional and national stereotypes than American humor, probably partly because regional identities are still so much stronger.

Are you going to stop using feck in your house now? :)

Lahdeedah said...

Well, as a matter of fact, he is Irish... lol

Sadly, we enjoy the word too much... we just won't say it around the children....

.... and I can always claim the English definition rather than the Irish...

Kristen said...

I like the word "feckless." I shall find a way to use it this week.

David said...

That would be a very feckful thing to do.

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