Over the long three day weekend I decided to take a break. I spent most of my time watching movies on Netflix and working on a blanket I've been trying to finish crocheting forever and a day.
Ever the fan of Al Pacino and Johnny Depp, one of the movies I watched was the 90's mobster flick Donnie Brasco.
Aside from the ubiquitous use of the phrase "forget about it", the one term that sticks out most in my mind was "fugazy"; pronounced foo-gay-zee. Fugazi is a descriptor used to indicate that something is fake or not what it is advertised to be.
Assuming it was some some sort of Italian-American slang, I looked to up to determine the etymology of the word.
Well, I was only partially right. It is a word used by Italian-Americans. And, up until Donnie Brasco made the word uber famous, it's use was very regionalized in the New York City area.
There are a number of different sources that suggest that 'fugazy' was derived from anything from a Japanese term for deserter, to a British acronysm (fugazi) “fugazi,” an acronym for 'F'd Up, Got Ambushed, Zipped In', to the Italian word 'fugace' meaning ephemeral. None of which correlate to how the word is used.
The most likely origin comes a series of bad TV commercials for Fugazy Continental; a New York limousine company who's commercials from the 70's and 80's were notoriously cheesy wherein a rich guy wannabe picks up his date in a Fugazy limousine to impress her but at the end she realizes that it’s all an act.
Interestingly, the Limo King William Fugazy was arrested in 1997 on federal charges alleging bribery and cheating on his income tax returns . . . the same year the movie "Donnie Brasco" was released.