Though these days the term wordmonger refers to "a writer or speaker who uses language pretentiously or carelessly," please join me in proposing a new meaning. A fishmonger appreciates and promotes fish, therefore, a wordmonger does the same for words.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Lackluster #1

Lackluster #1

In the next two posts we will celebrate that experience of drained energy those involved in education (in the northern hemisphere) are experiencing this time of year. To the students & teachers who are somehow managing to hang in there, I’m with you.

About 1600, Shakespeare wrote the word lackluster into his play As You Like It. Though the word may have been in general usage, he is credited with coining it. It’s a simple compound word meaning lacking luster. It has outlived many of its contemporaries that also employed the prefix lack-, like a word used for non-landholders, lackland, & a word used for a not-so-literate member of the clergy, lack-Latin.

In 1590 the word feck made its way into the English language from a Scottish word related to the word effect. Feck meant value or vigor. From feck came feckless, meaning without value or vigor. As those of us involved in education plod toward the end of the school year, we completely understand why the term feckful dropped out of the language, but feckless is still alive & very, very present.

Nobody’s sure whether our next words came from Slovonic, Lithuanian, or somewhere else altogether, but the words tedious & tedium might apply to one’s experience this time of year (or any time, I suppose). These words entered English from Latin in the 1600s, but their previous origins are uncertain. They refer to irksomeness, weariness, or disgust.

Though its original form, soporiforous, was much more fun to say, soporific is the modern form. It means tending to produce sleep, or characterized by excessive sleep. Soporiforous entered English in the 1680s from French, soporofique, which came from the Latin word sopor.

In 1789 another word of unknown origin entered English – the word snooze. Some etymologists believe it’s onomatopoeic in origin, though I don’t’ know if I’ve ever heard a snore that sounds quite like the word snooze. By 1793 snooze referred to a short nap, which I submit is a reasonable, though lackluster & feckless response to soporific tedium.

So, good readers, what have you to say about tedium & its soporific effects?

My thanks go out to this week’s sources: OED, Etymonline, & Wordnik, & Sloth – A Dictionary for the Lazy,


  1. Soporific is a lovely word. Feckless isn't one I hear much, but I've always liked it; thanks for the etymology!

  2. I think we need to revive the word feckful. My mother, an English professor, often referred to her less hard-working students as "feckless children." But I think she saw most of them as quite feckful. Another fun post, Mr. Monger!

  3. Hey Anne & Rachel6 - thanks for coming by. I agree we should promote the word feckful -- it would be a better world if we had more feckfulness & less fecklessness, wouldn't you say? And soporific is one we might all try using more often.

  4. A little soporific tedium would suite me just fine right about now. And a good snooze would be nice. I imagine the same is true for you and your fellow teachers!

  5. Hi Christine,
    All hail the snooze!