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

Charles C Doyle cdoyle at UGA.EDU
Sun Dec 16 14:45:26 UTC 2012

On the contrary, a phrase like "often attributed to," rather than seeking to perpetuate a dubious attribution, registers skepticism about the attribution, while acknowledging that the attribution itself has become part of the history of the expression.  At least that's what we intended by such glosses in _The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs_!


From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] on behalf of Laurence Horn [laurence.horn at YALE.EDU]
Sent: Saturday, December 15, 2012 8:17 PM


Spedding and Lambert argue against that assumption too, based on the absence of evidence (which to be sure is not evidence of absence, but suspicious if not dispositive) of such a meaning between 1749 and the 1830s; they maintain there's no causal connection either way.  Their   paper concludes as follows (note the nod to the "gay" question we discuss every now and then, although they don't bring up _Bringing Up Baby_):

*         *         *         *         *

But as a consequence of the acceptance of these arguments, it is not
now possible for any writer—or even group of writers—to prevent
these false arguments being repeated in future, especially given
their wide dissemination in popular and prestigious works of reference.
Just as attributions of authorship, no matter how improbable or absurd,
are repeated indefinitely (following the locution “sometimes attributed
to”), _fanny_ is likely to travel through history followed by Partridge’s “perhaps,”
Epstein’s “numerous commentators,” and Rothstein’s meditation
on “Miss Fanny, &c.”


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