Back
Fake lakes and all that stuff
Aug 24, 2012

 

Talented Sun political cartoonist, Tim Dolighan, has surpassed himself.
A recent effort shows the prime minister with Chief Shawn Atleo, the head of the Assembly of First Nations. They’re seated at what looks to be a dock. A duck swims in the water at their feet and a movie screen behind them portrays rocks, forest and lakes. A sign posted nearby says, “Fake Lake. PM’s Retreat.”
This government will probably never live down the phrase, “fake lake,” a term that has already entered Canadian English.
Perhaps it was the fake lake that inspired my bus driver’s other word query to be about fake. Who knows?
Fake is Germanic in origin, from fegen (to clean; to sweep). Upon entering Middle English, it was spelled feague and meant, “to coil.”
In 1627, a fake referred to one of the windings of a coiled cable and was mainly a nautical term. Johnson’s 1756 dictionary defines fake as, “a coil of rope.”
One source suggests fake’s earliest connection to anything dishonest has to do with selling unfit horses as healthy animals. This was known as faking or coping horses. When horse faking involved the animal’s teeth, it was called “bishoping.”
Fake entered underworld slang about 1812 as a verb denoting plundering, killing, stealing and deception.
It’s probable that the idea of deception arose from the “twisting” of the cable, the coiling.
Also in the 1800s, faker became another word for “pimp.”
Throughout the 19th century, the word fake continued to denote crooked (twisted) behaviour, specifically anything to do with deception. Thus, it became synonymous with “swindler,” “counterfeiter,” “cheater.”
In the 1800s, fake and faker entered U.S. slang where at first the meanings echoed those of England. But by the mid-19th century, in the U.S., a fake was a false newspaper article as well as an untrue rumour.
By the turn of the 20th century, fake meant “imposter.” However, the older cheating-related meanings never faded from language. Today, any cheap imitation is still called a fake.
Jazz musicians adopted to fake about 1915. Those who play an instrument by ear refer to the chording they use to accompany the melody, or even a soloist, as faking. That is, in faking, they are improvising.
To fake someone out had entered sports slang by the 1940s where it still means, “to bluff,” “to mislead.”
Fake isn’t about to disappear any time soon. In fact, its usage keeps expanding. So, today we hear of fake-bake and fake-and-bake, both referring to salon tanning. In U.S. black slang, to fake out is “to ignore.” To fake it is “to pretend.” 
Mid-19th century New Zealand slang gave us fake down — to carry out a crime. In Ireland’s Ulster Country, fake is a dialect word meaning “to hurt.” Fakement means “pain.”
Fake and faker are unrelated to fakir which is from the Arabic (poor man).
And a fake lake? Well, that’s a pretend lake built in a pretend woods for the real sum of a mere $1.9 million.
Ah yes! Fakes are still with us.