What does fecklessly mean?

Word count: 265 words

Reading time: About 1 minute

Building your vocabulary is always a good idea. It  benefits your reading and it also helps you be more specific and precise in your writing. Here is my word of the week, fecklessly.

Even a book you don’t like very much can teach you something. A recent such novel for me has been Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson. Saints has a compelling enough plot — a teenage boy I’d describe as a pothead loses a friend to a drug overdose. The boy then adopts a militantly clean lifestyle so that he becomes more conservative than his parents. Interesting, right?

Too bad the author didn’t have the skill to pull it off. I found the writing not quite sophisticated enough throughout. That said, the author did manage to give me my word of the week, fecklessly. Here’s the sentence: “Jude had tried to thumbtack it [a poster] back into place, but the tacks stuck fecklessly.”

Fecklessly means ineptly or irresponsibly. It’s a Scottish word, dating back to the late 15th century, from  “feck” which meant “effect, value, vigor.” Originally popularized by the Scottish satirical writer Thomas Carlyle, the word has been a favourite of mine for years. I confess I like the “dustiness” of it.  Of course it would be more modern to say “inept” which is a more sharp-edged word. But if you want to emphasize uselessness or inefficiency, what’s better than an old-fashioned term?

I expect the similarity of the root to the more familiar F-word also increases the appeal. You can describe something as “useless” or “ineffective” and almost sound as if you’re swearing.