Origin of a word

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?

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

Based on very little info my instincts tell me the words origins are as follows, and is similar to lots of other words.

fakashata=fuckin’ shit

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.

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.”

humble TubaDiva
recipe for success:
“dress British, think Yiddish.”

OOPS! Let me fix a typo there: it’s farfufket, of course.

My apologies.

your humble TubaDiva
Just a keystroke away from disaster

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.

“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”

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.