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effete

Posted By: wwh

effete - 01/31/04 02:22 AM

A word I haven't seen for quite a while. O.Henry puts it into the mouth of a cowboy in New York for the first time,
when he meets a former cowboy buddy, who has been living
in New York for seven years, and has become citified.
Not a word I would expect an ex-Rough Rider to know.
I had forgotten the etymology, so I looked it up:

Webster's 1913 Dictionary

Definition: \Ef*fete"\, a. [L. effetus that has brought forth,
exhausted; ex + fetus that has brought forth. See {Fetus}.]
No longer capable of producing young, as an animal, or fruit,
as the earth; hence, worn out with age; exhausted of energy;
incapable of efficient action; no longer productive; barren;
sterile.

Effete results from virile efforts. --Mrs.
Browning

If they find the old governments effete, worn out, . .
. they may seek new ones. --Burke.

Would you say the quote from Mrs. Browning was a double
entendre?






Posted By: Buffalo Shrdlu

Re: effete - 10/17/05 10:29 PM

milum used this in the travel thread, and it struck me that I really didn't know the proper definition. I have always colored this word with an association with effeminate, but I see that that's not the case. or is it? anyone else?
Posted By: tsuwm

Re: effete - 10/17/05 10:47 PM

it's come to have more senses than given in that 1913 entry; but still, it's related to feminine (but not to be confused with effeminate).

Etymology: Latin effetus, from ex- + fetus pregnant, breeding, fruitful -- more at FEMININE
1 : exhausted of fertility : no longer able to produce young or fruit : UNFRUITFUL <eroded effete earth>
2 : marked by lack or deprivation of some inherent characteristic : ENERVATED: a of a substance : having lost its unique quality (as flavor) b : exhausted of physical energy : worn out : SPENT <effete, weary, burned-out revolutionists -- H.F.Mooney> c : having lost character, courage, strength, stamina, or vitality <effete literary critics and dogmatic professors -- J.T.Farrell> : DEGENERATE <a soft, effete, and decadent race -- R.P.Parsons> d : totally devoid of an original positive drive or purposiveness <vaguely educated for minor diplomatic or other governmental posts in an effete struggle to maintain position -- Janet Flanner> e : soft or decadent as a result of overrefinement of living conditions or laxity of mental or moral discipline <the effete householder who wants things done for him -- New Yorker> <the effete gentility that lay like a blight on the critical writing of the nineties -- C.I.Glicksberg> f : OUT-OF-DATE, OUTMODED <an old but by no means effete statute -- Edward Jenks>

-Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged
Posted By: Buffalo Shrdlu

Re: effete - 10/17/05 11:03 PM

thanks, t. that's a lot more than I found at etymyonline, or Encarta. but I guess I do need to change my thoughts around it.
Posted By: belMarduk

Re: effete - 10/18/05 12:25 PM

Hmmm.

I had always thought it was used to describe a man with negative female qualities, as in this definition in tsuwm's post...

soft or decadent as a result of overrefinement of living conditions or laxity of mental or moral discipline <the effete householder who wants things done for him -- New Yorker>

...but it just now dawns on me that this is not a very nice way to think. Though I'm not very militant, it seems that this is one of those cases where we should be revising the way women are portrayed. Why would it be women that become soft or decadent as a result of overrefinement?

Funny, eh, how things you've never noticed jump out at you sometimes. Mind you, this isn't a word I use, so I had not thought about it, but still.
Posted By: Buffalo Shrdlu

Re: effete - 10/18/05 12:28 PM

> negative female qualities

that's exactly the way that I was thinking about it, Bel. yet, there's nothing in the def you ref'd that says "female"...
Posted By: belMarduk

Re: effete - 10/18/05 05:09 PM

No, there isn't. That's exactly it. When I was taught the word, it was somehow associated with the feminine, so I remembered it that way.

But it's a wrong way of thinking. We shouldn't associate the word with feminine because it makes us think that these are negative qualities typically associated with females. How does one change the general mindset on something like this. I can change the way I think, but can't change the world.


I hope this is clearer, I think I may not be expressing myself well.
Posted By: tsuwm

Re: effete - 10/18/05 05:33 PM

okay, I hadn't wanted to obviousize this, but. IN THE ORIGINAL SENSE; i.e., unable to bear young, this word certainly bore on the female. then it shifted to a meaning characteristic of such a female. now it has become "desexed".

you have to wonder (don't we?) how much M-W (for one) have been influenced by the order of the day.

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'...
Posted By: tsuwm

Re: effete - 10/18/05 05:43 PM

OED has some relevant commentary:
3. fig. Of persons in an intellectual sense, of systems, etc.: That has exhausted its vigour and energy; incapable of efficient action. Also, of persons: weak, ineffectual; degenerate. More recently, effeminate.
1981 Economist 6 June 18 Cool, practical and macho in the open air, indoors the uniform tends to trip the wearer up, needs gathering up like a skirt, and looks a trifle effete.
[emPHAsis added]

(I apologize for not looking here sooner.)

edit: so, what we seem to be seeing is that although the drift had been away from feminine, we are coming back to a (typically?) lazy, fin de siecle conflation/confusion of effete and effeminate.
Posted By: Buffalo Shrdlu

Re: effete - 10/18/05 07:54 PM

ok, so I was right (wrong) all along... glad we got that figgered out.
Posted By: klingsor

Re: effete - 03/12/07 05:30 PM

In all the msgs here I did not once see the famous remark by Nixon's vice president Spiro Agnew who spoke in one of his diatribes against some political enemies about "effete snobs".

Since this happened a very long time ago, I don't recall if that was all there was to it, or if there was any more. Does anypne else remember this?
Posted By: Zed

Re: effete - 03/13/07 07:55 PM

Hi Klinsor, welcome aboard.
US politics isn't my forte but politics from anywhere remain a great source for insults.
Posted By: Shawn F.

Re: effete - 07/31/09 02:36 AM

I think the word that is being described is 'epicene'
Posted By: zmjezhd

Re: effete - 07/31/09 02:04 PM

epicene

Epicene (< Latin epicoenus < Greek epikoinos 'common to many, promiscuous') originally meant 'having the characteristics of both genders (both in the sexual and grammatical sense), and effete, as tsuwm's post showed, meant infertile. In linguistics, epicene nouns are ones in which the male and female terms for animals are the same, not different. They are both roughly synonymous in English in the meaning 'an effeminate (man)'.
Posted By: seapea

Re: effete - 08/01/09 06:28 AM

Originally Posted By: klingsor
In all the msgs here I did not once see the famous remark by Nixon's vice president Spiro Agnew who spoke in one of his diatribes against some political enemies about "effete snobs".

Since this happened a very long time ago, I don't recall if that was all there was to it, or if there was any more. Does anypne else remember this?


"an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals." ~ S.T. Agnew (wiki search)

Gee, back then at least one Republican knew how to say what he meant. Today, none would dare use so many polysyllabic words.
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