Wordsmith.org: the magic of words

Wordsmith Talk

About Us | What's New | Search | Site Map | Contact Us  

Previous Thread
Next Thread
Print Thread
Page 1 of 2 1 2
#121781 - 01/31/04 02:22 AM effete  
Joined: Jan 2001
Posts: 13,858
wwh Offline
Carpal Tunnel
wwh  Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Joined: Jan 2001
Posts: 13,858
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?







#121782 - 10/17/05 10:29 PM Re: effete  
Joined: Jun 2002
Posts: 7,210
Buffalo Shrdlu Offline
Carpal Tunnel
Buffalo Shrdlu  Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Joined: Jun 2002
Posts: 7,210
Vermont
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?


formerly known as etaoin...
#121783 - 10/17/05 10:47 PM Re: effete  
Joined: Apr 2000
Posts: 10,538
tsuwm Offline
Carpal Tunnel
tsuwm  Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Joined: Apr 2000
Posts: 10,538
this too shall pass
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

#121784 - 10/17/05 11:03 PM Re: effete  
Joined: Jun 2002
Posts: 7,210
Buffalo Shrdlu Offline
Carpal Tunnel
Buffalo Shrdlu  Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Joined: Jun 2002
Posts: 7,210
Vermont
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.


formerly known as etaoin...
#121785 - 10/18/05 12:25 PM Re: effete  
Joined: Sep 2000
Posts: 2,891
belMarduk Offline
Carpal Tunnel
belMarduk  Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Joined: Sep 2000
Posts: 2,891
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.

#121786 - 10/18/05 12:28 PM Re: effete  
Joined: Jun 2002
Posts: 7,210
Buffalo Shrdlu Offline
Carpal Tunnel
Buffalo Shrdlu  Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Joined: Jun 2002
Posts: 7,210
Vermont
> 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"...


formerly known as etaoin...
#121787 - 10/18/05 05:09 PM Re: effete  
Joined: Sep 2000
Posts: 2,891
belMarduk Offline
Carpal Tunnel
belMarduk  Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Joined: Sep 2000
Posts: 2,891
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.

#121788 - 10/18/05 05:33 PM Re: effete  
Joined: Apr 2000
Posts: 10,538
tsuwm Offline
Carpal Tunnel
tsuwm  Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Joined: Apr 2000
Posts: 10,538
this too shall pass
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'...

#121789 - 10/18/05 05:43 PM Re: effete  
Joined: Apr 2000
Posts: 10,538
tsuwm Offline
Carpal Tunnel
tsuwm  Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Joined: Apr 2000
Posts: 10,538
this too shall pass
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.

Last edited by tsuwm; 10/18/05 05:53 PM.
#121790 - 10/18/05 07:54 PM Re: effete  
Joined: Jun 2002
Posts: 7,210
Buffalo Shrdlu Offline
Carpal Tunnel
Buffalo Shrdlu  Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Joined: Jun 2002
Posts: 7,210
Vermont
ok, so I was right (wrong) all along... glad we got that figgered out.


formerly known as etaoin...
Page 1 of 2 1 2

Moderated by  Jackie 

Forum Statistics
Forums16
Topics13,879
Posts224,223
Members9,033
Most Online3,341
Dec 9th, 2011
Newest Members
Joyous, Amylzirklern, brork, santo, piostylist
9033 Registered Users
Who's Online Now
0 registered members (), 53 guests, and 2 spiders.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
Top Posters(30 Days)
Top Posters(All Time)
wwh 13,858
Faldage 13,803
Jackie 11,613
tsuwm 10,538
LukeJavan8 9,057
AnnaStrophic 6,511
Wordwind 6,296
of troy 5,400
Disclaimer: Wordsmith.org is not responsible for views expressed on this site. Use of this forum is at your own risk and liability - you agree to hold Wordsmith.org and its associates harmless as a condition of using it.

Home | Today's Word | Yesterday's Word | Subscribe | FAQ | Archives | Search | Feedback
Wordsmith Talk | Wordsmith Chat

© 1994-2017 Wordsmith

Powered by UBB.threads™ PHP Forum Software 7.6.0
Page Time: 0.016s Queries: 14 (0.003s) Memory: 2.7273 MB (Peak: 2.8585 MB) Zlib disabled. Server Time: 2017-12-12 10:35:59 UTC