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Chris -- 2015-05-30
“Fakir” is an Arabic term. It originally referred to a Sufi holy man, a mendicant teacher of Islam. In modern times it has been generalized to include Hindus. The English term is often used to refer to any south Asian (i.e. a person from India or Pakistan) holy person who has some special power. The typical picture generated in Western minds by the word “fakir” is or while living in a marketplace and begging alms. Easy enough to see how the thought of “faker” might intrude itself.
The word’s English career .
Undoubtedly some of the substitutions are puns.
: “Under the fig-leaf of Socialism they supported the World War, the Versailles Treaty, the Dawes and Young Plans, the Kellogg Pact, the Chinese butcher, Chang Kai Shek, and the Indian faker, Gandhi.”
: “A few weeks ago we seen on the God Box another Indian Faker swallowing live scorpions and pukeing them back up.”
: “Christ supposedly cured the lame and they cast down their crutches and they crawled off as serpents. The latter is an old East Indian faker trick.”
: “When I was in a mainline seminary in New York in the mid 1970s, the ecumenical Thursday night service was led by Hilda the White Witch, who was introduced by the bishop of New York. The Indian faker Sri Chinmoy, who claimed to be able to levitate, gave the Easter service,”
: “If you want an Indian faker to do the rope trick or Bijou Magician saw a woman in half… be my guest. Just don’t kid yourself that it was a ‘miracle’.”
Mark Liberman has an interesting early Language Log post on this in which he suggests that the change in meaning of “fakir” to “faker” may have been driven by the American spiritualism craze of the late 1800s and early 1900s. The post is here: http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/language … 01115.html