[off-list] Re: [ADS-L] "fanny", n.4

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sat Dec 15 21:14:34 UTC 2012

On Dec 15, 2012, at 3:30 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole wrote:

> Here is some more information from an entry in Jon Lighter's
> masterwork: Historical Dictionary of American Slang:
> fanny n. [orig. unkn., but perh. cf. Fanny Hill (1748-49), erotic
> novel by John Cleland]
> 1. the vulva or vagina. - usu. considered vulgar. [Chiefly BrE and
> always rare in U.S. The *1882 quot. could possibly belong at (2),
> below.]
> *ca 1835-40 in Speaight Bawdy Songs of Music Hall 76: I've got a
> little Fanny,/That with hair is overspread. Ibid. 39: Johnny touched
> her Fanny up. *1882 Boudoir 88: Come...feel our soft little fannys.
> *1889 Barrere & Leland Dict. Slang I 354: Fanny (common), the fern. pud.
"fern. pud."  or "fem. pud."  I didn't know ferns were so equipped.
I seem to recall an earlier thread on the frontal "fanny", in which I mentioned that the "Fanny Hill" link--endorsed widely, by among others Geoffrey Hughes in his _Swearing_ (1991)--"The sense is surely implied in John Cleland’s _Fanny Hill_ [sic] (1749), a punning reference to Latin mons veneris)"--is highly dubious.  This point is made at length in a recent essay by Spedding & Lambert*, who argue convincingly that the name of the protagonist of _Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure_ cannot have been a deliberate reference to the sense in question, since there is no clear record of the fem. pud. meaning of "fanny" before that 1835-40 collection cited in HDAS.  It's a nice paper, and quite convincing--at least to me.

*Spedding, Patrick and James Lambert. 2011. Fanny Hill, Lord Fanny, and the myth of metonymy. Studies in Philology 108: 108-132.


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