View Full Version : Origin of a word
08-17-1999, 09:59 PM
This may be a nonsense word, but it's one my mother used often; the spelling is phonetic.
fa-ka-SHAT-a (all the a's are short). When Mother thought her hair was not fixed properly, she would say "I look like a fakashata" (meaning a mess). I asked her where she got the word - she didn't know. I never heard her mother use it. When I used it once years ago, the other person looked at me like I was crazy. I couldn't explain why I used it except from hearing my Mother say it. I also kind of like the sound of it, but I stopped using it, since I couldn't explain it's origins. Any ideas?
08-17-1999, 10:51 PM
C'mon. Help us out, here. What was your mom's ethnic background and in/near what city did she grow up?
Don't stop using such a great word just because you don't know its origin! There are plenty of mongrel words that are more lovable than any pedigreed word.
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean--neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master--that's all."
Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass
08-17-1999, 11:41 PM
Based on very little info my instincts tell me the words origins are as follows, and is similar to lots of other words.
Just a WAG, but I'm stickin with it. I'm betting that your mom's family growing up used this word to swear without the wrath of her parents or making a scene in public. She likely never put two and two together as to what it meant (or is just playing dumb with you) and has kept it ever since.
08-18-1999, 12:56 AM
This may be a nonsense word, but it's one my mother used often; the spelling is phonetic. fa-ka-SHAT-a (all the a's are short). When Mother thought her hair was not fixed properly, she would say "I look like a fakashata" (meaning a mess)
Welcome to Yiddish.
Here's some words that are in the neighborhood of what your mother was talking about: fsrfufket, farkatke, farmisht, farpatshket, farshtinkener, fartumelt, fartutst, ferklempt.
All indicate a state of bewilderment, confusion, messiness . . . which is exactly what they sound like, no?
I find several different word origins, both German and Russian for these words, so I can't say with any certainty what the root is. To quote from Leo Rosten, the vocabulary of Yiddish is 75% German, 18% Hebrew, 16% Slavic, 5.60% Romance languages, and 3.5% English. "The fact that these numbers add up to more than 100 demonstrates the limitations of statistics."
recipe for success:
"dress British, think Yiddish."
08-18-1999, 12:58 AM
OOPS! Let me fix a typo there: it's farfufket, of course.
your humble TubaDiva
Just a keystroke away from disaster
08-18-1999, 06:40 PM
Ethnic background - right - sorry about that.
But don't thinkk that'll help. I realized it could be derived from a foreign language. We're at least 4 generations American, with British and German roots (maybe Irish). We spent most of our lives in D.C. but NOT in a diverse neighborhood. We did know a Jewish family, and I am particulary fond of Yiddish expressions - I even have Rosten's book but didn't think to check it there. Thanks all for the input.
08-18-1999, 07:08 PM
"faka-" or some variant thereof is a common prefix in Polynesian languages, meaning (usually) to cause something to happen. Polynesian languages are also have open syllables, that is, every syllable ends in a vowel. So it's possible your word is of Polynesian origin.
That said, I have no idea what it might conceivably mean. I searched a Maori database but couldn't find any close matches -- the closest was "whakaata" (the pronunciation is closer than it looks!), meaning "mirror".
Any old Pacific Islanders hiding in your family tree?
"non sunt multiplicanda entia praeter necessitatem"
08-18-1999, 07:10 PM
If the diva had just held off.My WAG was it was from the Fakir's Shadow. I don't know what that means,but I like the sound of it."I look like the Fakir's Shadow." Following tenn's advice I am gonna start using it. Any body else feel free, just remember you heard it here first.People already look at me like I am crazy so it won't bother me as much as it did you,syco.
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