All languages have taboo words (the so-called dirty words for example) and all languages will lose innocent words that sound a little too much like a taboo word. No one uses the worded niggardly any more, even though it simply means “miserly”, because it has a very bad word indeed in it. It has no relation to the very bad word indeed, etymologically, but the sound is enough to cast it from polite language.
Here in Wales I cannot say St. Fagan’s correctly.
I autocorrect it to Saint Fay-gans rather than saying St. Fag-ens, Why? Because I have LGBT friends and the word “fag” is a cruel and derogatory word for a gay man in America. Here, it is more likely to be a cigarette. Thus, I stumble over the word Fagan’s and my neighbors do not.
The Welsh think my inability to say St. Fagan’s is funny, but are gobsmacked by my cavalier use of the word “fanny”. I can say fanny without turning a hair. The Welsh cannot. Fanny is profoundly dirty over here. All kinds of naughty. Even worse than the word “ride” in Ireland. Yet, the words fanny and ride mean nothing to me emotionally because of my cultural imprinting. Such is life.
But I digress. We were talking about innocent words that drop out of a language because they sound bad even when they aren’t. I’m thinking about that because I was feeling feckless and it made me wonder why I never called my friends with good executive functioning “feckful”.
We don’t use the word feck to describe an effective act anymore because it is simply too similar in sound to the word fuck. If this is the first time you’ve seen that word in print and are offended, I am calling malarkey on you. You’ve seen it, you’ve heard it, and you’ve said it. Don’t get squeamish on me. I’m not writing f**k like an eejit just to appease false sensibility.
The Irish use the word feck a lot, but not to mean the opposite of feckless. On the Emerald Isle the word feck is a mild expletive that won’t even get you in trouble with a sweet Irish granny. It’s not as g-rated as “flip”, but isn’t really a bad word missing the letter ‘u’.
But no one uses feck the way it should be used – to describe someone who is the opposite of feckless. Someone who is effective rather than inept. Someone who has all their ducks in a row. I don’t even have all my ducks in the same pond, let alone in a row. I yearn, however, to have all my things orderly and organized, my life strategically arranged, and my various projects done systematically. I wish to be feckful. I’d like people to say, “Kyra is as together as feck!”
Alas, I am without personal feckness. I might as well give the feck up.