Sweet Fanny Adams

Jon Noble jon_p_noble at yahoo.com
Thu Feb 6 15:30:23 EST 2003

--- JOdel at aol.com wrote:
> << Thats "Franny" you're thinking of Sally, this
> confusion is the source of 
> several dirty jokes. ;-}
> Jon >>
> No, actually, it's Fanny. Or Fan. This usage goes
> back a long way, although 
> it fell out of usage fairly rapidly in America once
> the term "fanny" started 
> being used for the buttocks. (Which is what it meant
> when I was last paying 
> any sort of attention. If it means anything more now
> it has suffered a shift 
> in meaning. Or someone has conflated buttocks with
> bollocks which was not in 
> common usage on this side of the pond until about
> the late '70s, and still 
> isn't all that common.) 
> The use of "Fanny" as a girls' nickname was still
> common over here into the 
> 19th century (example: Fan/Fanny in Alcott's An
> Old-Fashioned Girl). The 
> usage had certainly not completely fallen out even
> in England, if the kids 
> were still familiar enough to taunt the little Adams
> girl in Witch's Business 
> with it in the '70s. 

I know that Fanny was (but probably rarely still is) a
nickname for Frances. I was being silly. Actually
although there are still girls called Francis if they
get any nickname these days its probably Frank or
Frankie - like the boys. There several dirty jokes
about Frannys. The slang meaning of the word for vulva
seems to have come from Fanny Hill (rather than Fanny
Adams) (the 19th century original, not DWJs). The
American buttocks meaning dating from (at least - its
hard to tell with slang) the 1920s. Interestingly the
American Heritage dictionary fails to acknowledge the


There are several slang words that may have started
out as obscenities and are now quite innocent, one
even appears in LOTR, where Tolkien was presumably
aware of this.


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