Trend Watch

Pence: "Weak and Feckless Leadership"

Lookups spiked after Pence used 'feckless' in the vice-presidential debate

Lookups for feckless spiked dramatically after Mike Pence used it in the vice-presidential debate.

After Mr. Kaine mentioned Mr. Trump’s frequent praise of Vladimir Putin and the Trump campaign’s “shadowy connections with pro-Putin forces,” Mr. Pence blamed the Obama administration’s “weak and feckless foreign policy” for Russian aggression.
—Nicholas Confessore and Matt Flegenheimer, The New York Times, 4 Oct. 2016

The word, which has been in use in English since the end of the 16th century, has become somewhat of a favorite of US politicians in recent years. Both Senator John McCain and Governor Chris Christie, among others, have used the word in highly publicized speeches or debates.

The Scottish word feck has among its meanings “value, worth,” and so a thing that is feckless may be lacking in such. However, feckless has also had a number of other senses in which it has been used over the past few hundred years, and none of them are particularly complimentary (“lazy and worthless,” “irresponsible,” “meaningless,” and the like). If someone calls you feckless, there is very little chance that you are being complimented.

On the other hand, although little-used, the word feckful means “efficient,” “sturdy,” or ‘”powerful.” We are still waiting to see that one come up in politics.

Trend Watch tracks popular lookups to see what people are talking about. You can always see all Trend Watch articles here.

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