Since the dawn of pro wrestling, the combatants involved have used discretion when it comes to talking about the business they are involved in, especially around fans. That discretion was ultimately given an informal label when, in the carnival days of sports entertainment, it was dubbed “kayfabe.”
The practice was religiously upheld for decades but began to slowly disappear as the business became widely popularized. In 1987, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan and The Iron Sheik, who had been involved in an on-screen feud, were pulled over in the same car and arrested when drugs were found in their possession. Many point to the two rivals being outed as friends as one of the first times kayfabe was prominently broken.
It seems the term has finally made the leap from carnival slang to legitimate speech as Merriam-Webster officially added the term to its dictionary. It is one of 690 words to be inducted this month, and its definition reads as follows:
kayfabe noun 1 : the tacit agreement between professional wrestlers and their fans to pretend that overtly staged wrestling events, stories, characters, etc., are genuine; broadly : tacit agreement to behave as if something is real, sincere, or genuine when it is not 2 : the playacting involved in maintaining kayfabe
Popular pro wrestling Twitter account @WWECreative_ish, operated by former WWE writer Robert Karpeles, got wind of the news and reacted rather quickly.
“It’s still real to us,” Merriam-Webster replied.
The response is proof that whoever is running the Merriam-Webster account is somewhat pro wrestling savvy. Back in 2005, superfan Dave Willis infamously broke down asking a panel of pro wrestlers a question and emotionally stated, “It’s still real to me, dammit!” His response was one of the first things to go viral on the internet and is still referenced today, obviously.
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