Tuesday, June 28, 2011

effete



effete [ɪˈfit] a.

1.) Of animals: That has ceased to bring forth offspring. Obs.
2.) transf. Of material substances: That has lost its special quality or virtue; exhausted, worn out.
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 (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: Latin effetus, worn out, exhausted: ex- + fetus, bearing young, pregnant.

"Such a Hyper-magical is this our poor old Real world; which some take upon them to pronounce effete, prosaic! Friend, it is thyself that art all withered up into effete Prose, dead as ashes: know this (I advise thee); and seek passionately, with a passion little short of desperation, to have it remedied" (Diamond Necklace, Thomas Carlyle, 1837).

(La mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même, Marcel Duchamp, 1923)
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Note: this word does not mean sophisticated or snobbish. This is a misuse due to its similarity to the words "elite" and "effeminate". (As you can see above, even the O.E.D. is beginning to yield to the misuse.) This confusion has led Bryan A. Garner to declare "effete" a "skunked term", saying: "as with other skunked terms, the thing to do is simply to avoid using it" (Garner's Modern American Usage 3rd Ed.). I'm going to use it in a thesis chapter, though, (in the proper way) and see if my Professor comments on it. Thanks for reading!

29 comments:

theTsaritsa said...

I don't think words should ever be discontinued because some people misuse them. I'm with you, use it correctly.

RaShelle said...

E - I feel effete today. Great word. Love the excerpt you included from Diamond Necklace

Jennifer Fabulous said...

I'm glad I read the disclaimer at the bottom. I believe I have used this word used incorrectly before. I would hate to make the same mistake and look like a dumbass. :P

PS. And yes, I have unfortunately dated dbags AND closets. But at least the closests were nice! Ha!

menshansnerts said...

Nice post!

Henry said...

Skunked, eh?

Salted Plum said...

I have often heard people misuse this word!

Astronomy Pirate said...

Actually, that could be a pretty powerful word if used correctly, it's to bad it's been 'skunked'

Debra She Who Seeks said...

It's a very Oscar Wilde-ish type of word so that may be where it has picked up its connotation of "sophisticated" or "snobbish." Nobody can put down a lesser being like a Queen, you know.

Wintermute said...

I'm going to try and use this in proper context.

D4 said...

Yes, I'd avoid it just to avoid confusion altogether.

Z said...

This word explains how I felt couple weeks ago. I was extremely effete!
Luckily! I got laid off last week. I can take couple of months off.:):)

Mercurio said...

I've learned something that I shouldn't use if I don't want to sound even more weird when trying to express myself speaking english.

Bart said...

hahahahaha i fucking love it, i say effete all the time at work.

JayJay said...

Interesting. I have always found it fascinating how words like this slowly change meaning due to them being used incorrectly.

Would using effete to describe a 'snob' be considered a malapropism?

Melanie said...

I can use this one!

tamezisclutch said...

This post is very thoughtful. Some words are really misused

LasseEA said...

I always learn something new from this blog !

Intraman said...

Actually I have gulped down an entire bottle of whisky along with a friend last night and I am now completely effete.

Drake Sigar said...

I hate it when people misuse the term ‘literally’. They’ll say things like “Oh my god, I literally died!”

If only.

lunatic said...

interesting

DEZMOND said...

that's a strange illustration, Edmund!
I wish my cat was effete, she has kittens two times a year sometimes :(

Kristin H said...

Fascinating... I really have been thinking of this word in a more... elite direction!

Banacek said...

I know this one as "effeminate."

PeaceLoveandSharpies said...

Lol.
I keep reading it as "Eff it!"

xD

Mr. Cactus said...

Cool another new word learned.

Jose Cuer said...

This is one of those words that I've heard every once in a while and I just shrug off because I don't know...

Ha, another notch in my vocabulary-pole I guess =P.

RedHeadRob said...

That's a pretty sweet word.

Jazz bazooka said...

time to name people that and see how will they react .

Jenny Woolf said...

Effeminate? I wonder if this is a matter of rather similar-sounding words getting mixed up.

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