Saturday, March 10, 2007


Effete (DD definition link)

I think my confusion about this word stems from the fact that I only knew it's latter meanings and not the earlier ones. I understand the etymology of being exhausted from giving birth to just a descriptor for being that exhausted, but through some misfortune, the word morally gets added before it, and suddenly we have depraved. So, what happened c. 1790 that the word "morally" got involved? Was it a commentary on the type of person who was so exhausted? After three days of taking the NY and MA bar exams, I was so effete, I couldn't think straight, much less stand. Yes, it happened, but no, I don't want to be described as effete. Sounds odd being used out of the decadent/effeminate context we all know so well. Many actresses playing effete women have never experienced childbirth to know how to act it properly. If you didn't know what the word really meant, this context could just as easily lend itself to the immoral usage, although I meant it in the first definition. Maybe that does go to show that the difference between being tired and being immoral is not that far apart. After all, sloth is a sin. Her effete study habits didn't last her through the overnight cramming session? Still can't tell which usage is being intended (decadent or worn out). Maybe the word has a deliberate double-entendre now. The effete assignment was tantamount to banging ones head against the wall for its frustrating uselessness. No. The effete song was played on the radio every hour on the hour until listenership diminished as a result. Probably not. Plus, invidious would be better here. I think since effete derives from childbirth, it should only be applied to acts of humans, and possibly elevated animals, but not the inanimate or abstract if you ever want to get at the original definition. The problem there is that every time effete is used outside the human context, it grows in the usage of the latter definitions (decadent, effeminate). Known by his students as an effete lecturer, he quickly put everyone to sleep. Maybe this gets across the idea of tired more, but I still wouldn't want to say it for fear of slander. And these "tired" usages still don't make the distinction that effete is a past participle--tired, worn out, not tiring or wearing out. The condition is already past hope at the time you use effete. The effete athlete was unable to be revived from dehydration after the triathalon. After 60 years of smoking, she took her last effete breath. Ok, I think we all get the point. Unless effete is used specifically to relate to childbirth, and that really great feeling right after 6-12 lbs is finally released, we will only use effete in the slanderous, degrading meanings. Effete is certainly an effete word.

1 comment:

JWu said...

Seems like a very judgmental word (or at least, connotations)... I say, boycott!