xkcd presents: Etymology Man! As always, don’t forget to read the mouseover text. (Thanks, Sven!)

While I have your attention, I am puzzled by the term “affectus” in the following sentence from Russia’s Alternative Prose, by Robert Porter (Berg, 1994): “It would be difficult to find a more authentic-sounding amalgam of half-digested official propaganda, perfunctory reading, emotional confusion and popular bigotry than Irina’s outpourings here – she sounds like the Soviet equivalent of an affectus-cum-aficionado of the British gutter press.” The word, if it can be called that in English, isn’t in the OED or any other dictionary I have access to, and I’m afraid Etymology Man isn’t of much help, since the Latin word affectus has too many meanings (as a noun, ‘mental state; strong feeling; physical condition; influence; eagerness; sympathy, affection; purpose; attitude,’ and as an adjective ‘endowed with; disposed; (harmfully) affected, impaired; related (to), connected (with); emotional’) and it’s not clear which if any might be intended. If anyone has any helpful suggestions, I’m all ears. (If it matters, “she” is the protagonist of Viktor Erofeev’s Russian Beauty.)


  1. The Russian usage of the Latin root is typically in the court of law say when mounting an insanity defense (but generally for acts committed in an emotionally disturbed state).
    Grr the xkcd’s Etymology Man is sooo long winded and humorless … a caricature indeed.

  2. Tidal bores indeed.

  3. The combination “affectus-cum-aficionado” has an alliterative appeal that may have averridden considerations of intelligibility. Porter may be trying to smuggle in a new furrinism under the coattails of an older one, “aficionado”. Another possibility: El sueño del copy-editor produce monstruos.
    Affekt is a German legal term as well. To kill someone im Affekt is to do so “in the heat of the moment”.

  4. Jeffamaphone says

    Perhaps they meant to coin the word “affectress”.

  5. To judge from that sentence alone, it sounds like maybe it’s supposed to mean “person affected by (something)”, i.e. it’s the participle in Latin, not the noun.
    I feel though that if you’re going to be borrowing words anew from Latin you might at least borrow them in the correct gender… but maybe there was interference from “aficionado” (which is itself exempted from such Continental nonsense owing to its distinguished record of service in the English language, natch).

  6. Kári Tulinius says

    Could it be that the writer once heard someone use the French “affectueuse” and malformed it in their head? I’ve had that happen.

  7. @MOCKBA, Grumbly Stu: But, if I’m not mistaken, аффект and Affekt both refer to the condition, not to the person. The same is true of most uses of affectus in English contexts. It’s hard to square that with Porter’s usage, where affectus seems to be a human noun.

  8. Ran: both refer to the condition, not to the person
    Yes, that’s the main problem as I see it. Maybe the expression means “emotionally disturbed, affected aficionado”. I have met such people.

  9. Not that this clarifies the original article’s usage of a Latinate word, but Russian does have another word besides “аффект” that seems to be closer to what could have been meant by “affectus” there: аффектация (“exaggerated expression of a mood or a feeling, characterized by unnatural gesticulation and overly upbeat speech”). Of how to get from this dictionary entry to “affectus” in the article I have no idea, but, the subject matter being Russian, there might be some link.

  10. xkcd has a follow up today: Wrong Superhero.

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