A classic problem of English usage. Unfortunately, the commonest advice usually simplifies the matter as follows:

Affect is a verb meaning “to change or to make a difference”; effect is a noun meaning “the result of a change.”

In fact, both affect and effect can be either a verb or a noun, and there is a much wider range of meaning than indicated above.

Affect, v.

to change, to make a difference, to have a material effect

  • The weather will surely affect my plans this weekend.
  • The hole in the bucket deleteriously affects its utility.

to impress, to touch, to move, to have an emotional effect

  • His severe mien affected my perception of his character.
  • The soprano’s performance affected my mood for a week.

to pretend, to feign, to assume a display for appearance’s sake, to prefer (for appearance’s sake)

  • He affected surprise, even though he had learned of the news beforehand.
  • So persuasively did she affect a certain country folksiness that no one ever did guess that she was a multimillionaire manufacturing magnate.
  • Punk rockers will often affect a countercultural attitude so as to appear authentic to their fans, whereas the production and sale of their products belie such pretensions.

Affect, n.

a disposition, feeling, temper, affection

  • A sombre affect pervaded the funeral parlor.
  • The spring rain suggested to the poet an affect for her verse.
  • His affect was phlegmatic and elusive.

an affectation (rarer)

  • She assumed an affect of indifference [to avoid showing how much she really cared].

Effect, v.

to cause, to bring about, to accomplish or to obtain an effect, to bring to completion [perfective]

  • The signing of the law effected the long-awaited policy.
  • By no means can impossible goals be effected.

to cause, to carry out, to put into effect, to inaugurate [progressive]

  • One must pay the insurance premium to effect coverage.
  • Step by step, we can effect the changes we seek.

Effect, n.

a state or fact of being operative or in force

  • Although no longer in effect, the law still holds sway in the civic consciousness.
  • This toilet is out of order with immediate effect.
  • The insurance certificate takes effect on the first of the month.

a result, a consequence, a thing accomplished, a phenomenon

  • Although the law has been repealed, it still retains an effect in the civic consciousness.
  • Wind is an effect of the mixing of air masses of different temperatures.
  • The team hopes that the effect of their rigorous training shall be victory and glory.
  • The Pied Piper effect suggests that if we can persuade the chair, the committee will follow.

a (desirable) purpose, a (pleasing or remarkable) gestalt [related to previous sense]; often pl.

  • Mozart deploys the trombones to great effect in his Requiem.
  • Confetti at a party often has a disappointing effect.
  • The impressionistic color effects of painters like Monet helped give their movement its name.



A small fish to fry

I’ve been doing a lot of extra editorial work during COVID-19. I recently came across this startling opinion of a New Grammarian, who would have us write, “Who’s learning from who.” They (sg.) contend that the interrogative pronoun is always who, uninflected for case, and that it is only the relative pronoun who(m) that is inflected, and even then only optionally. The latter bit is well known, but the first bit arouses tears of anguish: the precept leads to such eyesores as “From who is the message,” and all sorts. Then, I suppose the apocalypse is upon us, so whom cares.

centennial, centenary, century

A note on American English:

  • Both centennial and centenary can be either an adjective (“every century”) or a noun (“centennial celebration”).
  • In writing, it is commendable to reserve centennial for the adj. and centenary for the n., but it is a distinction that only connoisseurs will care about. (CMOS 17 is silent; Webster’s cross-references each to the other.)
  • In speech, my impression is that Yanks frequently say “centennial” for both the adj. and n.
  • British centennium, which means “centenary” (n.)—or, as I learned once to my amazement, sometimes even “century” in Oxbridgese—is not a word in American.
  • It is interesting to compare the subtle difference in the sense of centenary as a centennially recurring celebration of a significant historical date, and the once-a-century, but also once only celebration of a given century’s passing: the latter is a special case of the former. (Note, in this connection, that one never celebrates a century’s bicentenary!) The OED distinguishes both senses, but lists them both under its definition 2b. Webster’s sensibly avoids such flyspecks.

Lyriques bibliques of Antoine Houdar de La Motte (1672–1731)

This is a practical study in the pronunciation and declamation of the metrical French verse of La Motte, perhaps the greatest Classic French poet of the generation after Molière. La Motte was the librettist of André Campra’s L’Europe galante (1697), for instance. The texts were analyzed according to the principles of Bacilly (1668) and other writers who describe françois restauré. This research was undertaken for Brandywine Baroque’s recording project of Élisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre’s Cantates françoises sur sujets tirez de l’écriture (1709/11), which set La Motte’s poetry. The recording will be released by Plectra Records. The following is an example of one of the lyriques; there are a dozen total. Please contact me if you are interested in this project.

Ce projet est une étude pratique sur la prononciation et la déclamation du vers métrique de La Motte, poète et académicien peut-être le plus grand dès Molière. C’était lui qui a écrit le livret de L’Europe galante (1697) de Campra. On a analysé ces textes d’après les principes de Bacilly (1668) et d’autres auteurs qui ont traité le « françois restauré », ce qui veut dire un français qui conserve des traits du langage soutenu des XVe et XVIe siècles et qui s’employait encore dans le XVIIe et au début du XVIIIe chez les rhétoriciens et les prédicateurs. Ces recherches provenaient d’un enregistrement des Cantates françoises sur sujets tirez de l’écriture (1709/11) d’Élisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre. L’album va bientôt paraître chez Plectra Records. Mon travail sur une de cettes lyriques suit; il y en a une douzaine en total. S’il vous plaît me contactez si ce projet vous intéresse.

L’Histoire de Jonas (1709)

Texte et transcription phonétique [s’ouvre dans une nouvelle fenêtre]