[Ads-l] New to me: 'kayfabe'

Bill Mullins amcombill at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Jan 6 22:57:34 UTC 2021

I'm pretty sure I've also looked at "kayfabe" on this list, but I can't find anything I've posted about the term here with Google.

(aside -- 3-1/2 years ago, I looked at the wrestling terms "heel" and "face":

I can't find them with the list search [Google] by searching for "Heel  face", or for "wrestling", or with any other
reasonable search string I can think of.  I don't know if Google fails to index all posts, or what, but I don't find searches to be reliable.)

I have looked through the 1937 book "Fall Guys", and did not find "kayfabe" in there (I acquired it with the specific intention of looking for the term - it is a seminal work on 20th century Pro Wrestling).

OED has 1988 for the term.

1958 _Bangor [ME] Daily News_ 18 Nov 14/2

"And the Masked Marvel and his manager, Boris K. Fabian, have been handed indefinite suspensions."

(Boris K. Fabian not only managed, but was also a wrestler.  His real name was Robert M. Russell.)

1964 Albany OR _Greater Oregon_ 4 Dec 8/1
"In other action, bald Pat Patterson won the battle royal, Ricky Hunter won on a disqualification from Tony Borne, Freddy Baron whipped Larry Williams, and Dean Higuchi stopped Kay Fabian."

1971 _Chicago Tribune_ 4 May sec 3 p 3 col 4
has a letter to the editor of the sports section about wrestling, signed
"Mark Kayfabe".

1974 Portland OR _Oregonian_ 15 Feb sec m p 5 col 8
"Then there is the expression "Kay Fabian," used by wrestlers as a signal to clam up."


Thanks for raising an interesting topic, Geoffrey. My previous post on
this topic was intended to be informative and not critical. Nice 1975
citation, Stephen.

The Wikipedia article on "Kayfabe" suggests that a 1937 citation for
"kayfabe" exists. Oddly, no precise citation is presented in the
article. Amazon lists the 1937 book "Fall Guys: The Barnums of Bounce"
by Marcus Griffin which is the most likely candidate based on the
excerpt below. I have not verified the presence of "kayfabe" in the
1937 book. Conceivably "kayfabe" was added to the later annotated

[Begin excerpt]
The term was first documented in a 1937 book by New York sportswriter
Marcus Griffin that described some of the "behind the scenes" aspects
of professional wrestling, suggesting that the term was already in
common use in professional wrestling by that time.
[End excerpt]

Ben Zimmer's post pointed to a glossary on PWTorch.com. The entry for
"Kayfabe, Ka-Fabe" says "Dating back to carnival days" but it does not
seem to give a citation.


Below is a 1958 citation which mentions a wrestling manager (who was
also a wrestler) using the stage name "Boris K. Fabian". This might
have been an inside joke.

Date: November 18, 1958
Newspaper: Bangor Daily News
Newspaper Location: Bangor, Maine
Article: Disciplinary Action Taken After Portland Mat Action
Author: AP News Service
Quote Page 14, Column 2
Database: Newspapers.com

[Begin excerpt]
Michael said referees Les Ruffin and Lous Langevin had been barred
from Maine refereeing—at least for awhile—by the Atlantic Athletic
Corp., which governs refereeing along the Atlantic Seaboard.

And the Masked Marvel and his manager Boris K. Fabian, have been
handed indefinite suspensions.
Langevin was the ref Saturday night when the Marvel and Fabian, who
were the “bad guys" in a tag bout emerged victorious.
[End excerpt]

In 1986 a glossary of wrestling terms appeared in a Sunday newspaper
supplement and used the spellings "K-FABIAN" and "K-FABE".

Date: April 6, 1986
Newspaper: The Orlando Sentinel
Newspaper Location: Orlando, Florida
Section: Florida Magazine
Article: A Heel's Diary
Author: Tom Nowicki
Sidebar: Terms of affliction
Start Page 6, Quote Page 9, Column 1
Database: Newspapers.com

[Begin excerpt]
WORKER — a wrestler.
K-FABIAN or K-FABE -- everyone but wrestlers, specifically the audience.
[End excerpt]


On Wed, Jan 6, 2021 at 4:54 AM Stephen Goranson <goranson at duke.edu> wrote:
> Reportedly from "Scholastic Wrestling News," an article in an Oregon newspaper:
> There is a special vocabulary among wrestlers, these three claim. For example, the term "Kay Fabian" is used to mean shut up. If a promoter and two wrestlers are in the dressing room discussing how an upcoming match is to go and an outsider walks in, someone will say "Kay Fabian," and everyone will suddenly begin talking about the weather.
> Greensboro Daily News [NC; AmHistN] April 16, 1975, 29/1.
> S. Goranson

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