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

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sat Dec 15 22:20:16 UTC 2012

"Perh. cf." is clearly *not* intended to imply that Cleland named his
heroine for her fanny.

The naming, however, just may have gone in the opposite direction, _Fanny
Hill_ being the most notorious ex. of English um-literature of the age.

If the name "Fanny" had been applied more or less arbitrarily as a childish
euphemism, its chance identity with the name of the fictional courtesan
would undoubtedly have helped its career.


On Sat, Dec 15, 2012 at 4:14 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu>wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: [off-list] Re: [ADS-L] "fanny", n.4
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> 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.
> LH
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