fetus vs foetusFetus vs Foetus

Fetus vs Foetus. It’s a hotly contested topic. Many think that fetus is an Americanism. They avoid it. They use foetus. They are wrong.

Fetus comes from the Latin fetus meaning offspring. The o is a late addition. It should be avoided by publishers, editors and proofreaders. Always check the house style, of course. Publishers are not immune from error. If they insist on foetus just sigh and send the invoice.

In the US and UK fetus is generally used in medicine. It’s now the more popular spelling among non-medics as well. Similarly, fetal is preferred to foetal for which there is no justification.

Effete editors?

Latin effetus means having brought forth young. Therefore it came to mean exhausted!

Any freelance proofreader with three children under six would get the point. Freelancing with children at home can be a challenge. If you’re a proofreader or copy-editor teach your children to read early. “Look Mummy, the author can’t spell ‘accommodation’!”

Originally effete described people who had lost their talents or energies; it was later applied to things. Effete first appeared in the 17th century.

Digby is an effete old man now, his promise as a poet long lost in a haze of absinthe.

Effete “cures” for dropsy are now replaced by a new wave of remedies.

In the 20th century in less civilised times effete was used of effeminate young men. By implication an effete man was gay. A long-gone misuse, I hope.