Fecks and Fetters

(A Boomer Logophile’s Rant)

Unfettered? Feckless? We think we know what these words mean. But what do the root words mean, where did they originate? If something is now unfettered, logic dictates that at some point in the past it was fettered. Similarly, if I’m now “feckless”, I must have had some “feck” in the past. 

A former colleague of mine once put it quickly and succinctly for me as we sat listening to a not-so-inspirational speaker drone on about our jobs. He used the word “unfettered”. I leaned over toward Dave and asked “what the hell is ‘unfettered’?” He immediately replied, “no fetters”.

Take “disgruntled”, please. Yes, we have a sufficiently agreed-upon definition of the word i.e. “I hate my co-workers enough to shoot them”. But why haven’t we ever heard someone use the word gruntled? The answer to that is the same as the answer to why we seldom hear anyone describe a butt kisser as an obsequious sycophant. They’re both the same, but if you use the latter, you’ll get an emphatic “Huh?” from your audience.

I’m a logophile — a “word” guy and, as the pace of the corruption of the English language grows more rapid daily, I feel obliged to speak out. I did a query asking for “new words” added to Merriam-Webster since the start of the 21stCentury.




Up popped (pooped?) a list of 50. I became more disappointed with everyone I read. I stopped after about 30, feeling nauseous by then.

Upon further review I found that the majority are not new words. They’re multi-word descriptions mostly concocted by the internet herd.

One example: “Instagram” in the first year of its existence, was added by Webster in 2010. That made me think that if that info-dumpster (there’s a new word for you!) receives that level of validation, surely, I will find IBM, International Business Machines, given the impact they’ve had on the world in the last 70 years. But no! My IBM query gave me “international ballistic missile”.

Figuring that there must be something better than today’s Webster, I “googled” (now officially a word) “Oxford”.

Oxford’s 53-word list renewed my faith in mankind.


They were actually words! However, that’s the most that can be said for them. On the downside, every one of them is trendy trash. For example; “whatever!” is now defined as “whatevs!”. We really needed that? All 53 qualify as slang. Mostly dumb and expendable.

Fighting, or trying to fight something as elusive as the modern lexicon will yield only frustration. But, I, literally, will die trying.     

2 thoughts on “Fecks and Fetters

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  1. Don’t even get me started on language absurdity! Well, I guess you did so here goes: •how about the word “queue”…why not just spell it “Q”? •how about “solder”? •and segue!! why is it not like “vogue”, “league” or “fatigue”???? •and what about the origin of the word gerrymander, or kerfuffle? All I’ve got to say is “SHEESH”!!😂


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