I could not find any source that gave the origin of Nutsy Fagin/Fagin, so all of what follows is speculation. I take FAGIN/FAGAN to be the character from Dickens’ Oliver Twist and NUTSY to just mean nuts or eccentric.
Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang:
fagan/fagin: noun [1950’s] the penis. [the character Fagin from Charles Dickens’s ‘Oliver Twist’(1837-9); despite Fagin’s possible pedophilia and the use of ‘fag,’ no specific gay context is implied].
nutsy: adj. [1910’s] (originated in U.S.) mad, insane, eccentric, occasionally used as a nickname [NUTS adj.]
I’ll fist take a look at some possible meanings implied by the use of the words and then I’ll give a few examples of how I saw it used on the web. However, I can’t be sure the web people who used it, used it in a standard way – if there are any.
OLIVER TWIST was first the book. It may have next been the 1920’s movie with Lon Chaney playing Fagin. Then it went from a London to a Broadway play in the 1960’s, … , onto television’s Masterpiece Theater in the 1990's, … In the book, which was quite a bit more somber than the more light-hearted play, Fagin was a pretty evil guy who was a shrewd and cunning villain, and a manipulator and exploiter of people. The play, on the other hand, painted him into a lighter, funny, and almost lovable character, and made the life of petty crime look pretty benign.
I think that if the original expression predated the play (think the “1950’s”Cassell date just applies to first entry and not to when FAGINS appeared as uncapitalized nouns), than it would have had to first have meant a nutty and evil person who possibly was involved with children in some way (I don’t think anything sexual). If the expression came into existence after the play (or it could have changed meanings) than I think it would imply a more jolly, crafty, semi-lovable, harmless type of guy who was a bit off his rocker (adjective nutty applied) and there might possibly be the implication that the person, again, was involved with children (in a positive way). The play did make Fagin out to be a non-violent, guy who, although he was using his boys, did treat them well.
Here are 3 examples of the use of the expression, which I found on the web:
1) A comment somebody made somewhere: ‘It matters not one whit whether a rogue Patent Office is granting protection to every nutsy-fagan idea that comes down the pike.’
2) A review of a movie I never heard of called IT’S BUDDHA’S TIME: ‘One glance in those pixilated pupils and you knew that Colonel Walter E. Kurtz was certifiably Nutsy Fagan, but he did care for his legions, nurtured and instructed them.’
3) A comment that some ski person (I guess) made on a website and signed NUTSY FAGAN:
Let's see I spend all of my money, and time for a sport where I have to
get up at some ungodly hour of a Sunday morning to go to an event that is normally an hour's drive, spend all day standing in the cold/heat/rain/snow/sleet/wind/whatever for about five minutes of pure unadulterated fun. Yup, I'm certifiable, I better go now before the men with the coat with extra long sleeves that allow me to hug myself come
All three examples clearly imply the idea of being a bit crazy or eccentric. The first seem to just imply hair-brained idea from a probably like minded person. The second example implies crazy or eccentric plus the child, or at least a younger than connection, and the third could also imply the younger person part, if the person were a coach.
This is a pretty small sample so it is difficult to judge how the word is generally used and if there is an accepted usage(s). It seems to me that this expression is probably in some slang dictionary somewhere and I would be interested in hearing the official word if any one finds it.
Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, Colorado – U.S.A.)
Reply from Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)