Saturday, May 28, 2011
SOME INTERESTING WORDS
It's pretty easy to see that this word means "without feck." But you may be wondering what feck is, and what would make you be without it. Well, it turns out that feck is a word that is obsolete, which means nobody uses it anymore. But people still use feckless, so go figure. Anyway, what feck used to mean, when it was still a word, was "value" or "effect." In fact, it was a Scots word that was a version of effect, which is easy to hear, because feck and effect sound a lot alike.
So one meaning of feckless is "ineffective" or "feeble" or "lacking purpose." This is what happens when I try to talk Mom into getting me a pet bunny. My efforts are feckless.
Some other meanings for feckless are "irresponsible," "careless," and "incompetent." So a feckless trainer might not be able to housebreak a dog.
This is a great word, just because it's fun to say! It goes all the way back to Middle English, and people in those days probably had fun saying it, too. Anyway, in the beginning, it meant a flighty or whimsical young woman. Nowadays, it is still used in British slang for a person who gossips or talks a lot. The word was probably made up to sound like chattering that doesn't mean anything.
Sometimes a flibbertigibbet has also meant a devil or a sprite or an impish child. Shakespeare called one of five fiends in King Lear by the name Flibbertigibbet, even though this does not sound like a very fiendish name to me. Also in Kenilworth, by Sir Walter Scott, there was a character whose nickname was Flibbertigibbet.
Other meanings for flibbertigibbet are "an offbeat, skittish person" or "someone who is thought of as silly, irresponsible, or scatterbrained," especially if they also chatter and gossip.
So what a snollygoster is is a person -- usually a politician -- who is just trying to get ahead in his or her own selfish way. So if they are running for office, they will go to any lengths to win. They are not really interested in principles or in the good of the people. Another definition of snollygoster is "shyster," so it could just be anybody who is trying to trick you for their own advantage.
Nobody knows exactly where this funny word came from, but it's been around for a long time. Some people think it came from the German schnelle Geister, which means "a fast-moving ghost." In German myth, there was a great big, huge monster called a snallygoster, and it was half reptile and half bird. I started to get scared, reading about this monster, but then I remembered that if it is mythical, it is not real.
But Mom says that there are lots of snollygosters in our political system, and they are much scarier than that old German monster!