Ruthless, reckless, gormless


Other people have blogged about this with much more authority than I can, but I just did want to mention these funny English words which have a suffix or prefix as if they had a noun which could stand alone.

In Night Vision, Beulah and her husband are talking about his brother who he describes as ‘gormless’. Neil hates and loathes his brother, and Beulah tries to diffuse his annoyance by making a play on the word ‘gormless’

“Was there something wrong with him?” Beulah couldn’t help but ask. “What did he look like?” she persisted even though Neil was becoming annoyed.

“Gormless,” Neil’s voice was like ice.

“I wonder what gormful means?” Beulah asked shutting the books firmly. “I wonder if it’s gormful or gormeous.”

“Or whether some people have gormness thrust upon them,” Neil seemed as anxious to forget it as she.

“Or gormship.”

“Or gormworthy.”

“How about ungorm?”

Gorm is a Scandinavian word and no doubt arrived in England with the Vikings or other Scandi’s who settled here and it lingered on in Yorkshire and the north-east before spreading to the rest of the country. Emily Brontë is credited with sending it south in her novel ‘Wuthering Heights’ when the old servant Joseph uses it!

Reckless is another similar word – can you have reckful or unreck? Reck meant care… obviously! And then there is feckless… nothing to do with the irish ‘feck’ which obviously is very different! Feckless comes from effect which was changed by the Scots.

Ruth is a lovely name, I have a beautiful cousin – she is on holiday at the moment so I guess the family are Ruthless.. however the adjective comes from ‘rue’ – as in ‘rue the day meaning to regret’, so we have ‘rueful’ but not ruthful’.

Ruth and ‘step’ daughter

I’m fascinated by words and if you are too, have a look at these links:

… and if you haven’t yet read ‘Night Vision’, here is a link to it and my other novels:


  1. redjim99

    So much fun to be had with words. Did you here that the French have a new word instead of hashtag? “mot dièse” which means sharp word. They are a lot stricter than us when it comes to importing words.



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