How To Pronounce “Effete”


MY list of “How To Pronounce It” words is long, and I have a horrible habit of bumping a scheduled word down a week or two, when a newer, more exciting word grabs my attention. This past week, effete has been screaming at me after I had read, with my student, a New Yorker piece on the President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte.

I’m disappointed, but not surprised, that this Secondary Three student, had no clue who Duterte was, never mind that her long-time domestic helper is from the Philippines, or that the trash-talking president had, just a day or two before we read the piece, insulted President Obama, calling him a “son of a whore.” But now she does, after coming face-to-face with a colorful portrait of this loose-cannon and crime-busting leader in the article, Rodrigo Duterte’s Campaign of Terror in the Philippines.

“My mouth has no due process,” she reads a quote aloud, one the president had delivered in a recent nationally televised speech.

A few lines down, she’d read this: “My order is shoot to kill you. I don’t care about human rights, you’d better believe me.”

Duterte, we’d learn, has been on a rampage to fight drugs and crime because they were turning the country into a “narco state.” (We paused here to mark out “narco” as the informal word for “narcotics”). And he’d call out wusses and wimps, such as Mar Roxas, a former investment banker, educated at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, the designated successor of the popular outgoing President, Benigno Aquino III. Roxas, we’re told, was “part of an effete, corrupt establishment.”

Effete. That’s definitely not a Duterte kind of word, it’s exactly the kind he’d take down with a “shoot to kill” order:

effete |əˈfit| (adj)
no longer capable of effective action: the authority of an effete aristocracy began to dwindle.

(of a person) affected, overrefined, and ineffectual: effete trendies from art college.

How do you pronounce it? Like so: uh-FEET.

I invite you to write to me at if you have any word ideas you’d like to share.


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