kayfabe

Discuss word origins and meanings.
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kayfabe

Post by Ken Greenwald » Mon Aug 13, 2018 5:01 am

<“We are all now living in President Trump’s ‘kayfabe' [[Los Angeles Times]] . . . That’s a term from professional wrestling and ‘means presenting staged events as if they were real.’ Just as pro wrestlers stage colorful fake fights, Trump specializes in conjuring up illusions, or kayfabe, that he himself comes to believe so strongly that others believe it, too. This is his primary gift. Trump’s ‘demonization of the media as the enemy of the people,’ for example is mostly kayfabe. His summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un was entirely kayfabe, particularly Trump’s ridiculous claim that ‘there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.’ Trump’s staff tries to ignore him, but his rabid boosters ‘just go along with the act.’ When the ‘fake news’ inconveniently ‘breaks the fourth wall of kayfabe that what Trump says is not true, his followers simply shout ‘bias’ and cover their ears and eyes. As Trump told supporters at a rally last month: ‘What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening. ‘So what are those in the reality-based world to do? The only sane response is to see the kayfabe for what it is.’ Don’t overreact and don’t fall for the performance.’”—The Week, August 17/August 24, 2018>
Oxford English Dictionary

kayfabe: noun [[also adjective and verb]] U.S. Slang: In professional wrestling: the fact or convention of presenting staged events, performances, and competitors' rivalries as if they were authentic or spontaneous. [[And this has been carried over as demonstrated in the above quote to situations other than wrestling.]]
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Wiktionary

Etymology: The word is thought to have originated as carnival slang for “protecting the secrets of the business”, and may ultimately originate from Pig Latin for “fake” (“ake-fay”) or the phrase “be fake” (“e-bay ake-fay”).
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Kayfabe actually appears in very few dictionaries – not in Merriam-Webster Unabridged, nor in Dictionary.com, nor in Meriiam-Webster.com, nor in FreeDictionary.org, nor in The American Heritage Dictionary, nor in . . .

The following quotes are from The Oxford English Dictionary and archived sources:

<1988 “The heels were told to stay away because of kayfabe violations, but few listened to the order.”— Wrestling Observer Newsletter Yearbook, page 81/2>

<1995 "Kayfabe, pro wrestling's code of secrecy in never revealing that pro wrestling is scripted.”—Los Angeles Times, 6 August, page 10>

<2009 “On the band's latest album, ‘We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed’ - its second full-length release in 2008 - they sing ‘We're feeling so much more content knowing where our allegiances lie / Since our kayfabe friends have upped and left, you and I.’—The Capital Times (Madison Wisconsin), 5 February>

<2012 “Early in the book, Edison defines ‘kayfabe’ as an ‘old carny word’ that describes the circus and porn industry’s illusion that everything you see is real."—The Washington Post (D.C.), 8 January>

<2017 “But the discord in the debate -- real or kayfabe -- shows the divisions in Maine's two major political parties . . .”—Bangor Daily News (Bangor, Maine)

<2018 “President Trump’s demonization of the media as the ‘enemy of the people’ is mostly kayfabe.”—Arizona Daily Star (Tucson), 8 August>
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Ken Greenwald – August 12, 2018
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Re: kayfabe

Post by trolley » Mon Aug 13, 2018 9:40 pm

I've never heard that one before. I found a couple more theories about its origin, neither of which sound all that believable. Then again, that Pig-Latin story seems like a bit of a stretch, too. One theory is that there was once a professional wrestler named "Kay Fabian", who was mute. The other one references Kay Fabian again, but as a made-up name. Pro wrestling started on the carnival circuit and Kay Fabian (shortened to kayfabe) was carny slang that referred to the "code" of not revealing trade secrets. The story goes that, in days past when long distance phone calls were very expensive, carnival workers could phone home for free by asking the operator to make a reverse charge call to their loved ones. The operator would contact the recipient and ask if they would accept a collect call from Kay Fabian. When they answered "no", the call was disconnected and no charges were applied but the message was sent..."I am safe" or "we have arrived at our new town". Whether that's true or not, I can't say but, I can confirm that scam was certainly in use. I remember my Dad using it after we returned from a visit with my Grandmother who lived 1000 miles away.
"Dad, who is Joe Smith and why wouldn't Granny talk to you?"
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Re: kayfabe

Post by Bobinwales » Wed Aug 15, 2018 11:13 pm

Until I read Ken's excellent post, I had never heard the expression and certainly would not have had a clue as to what it meant.
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Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

End of topic.
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