For the American readers, this name may initially seem a tad amusing, but for the British one, it’s borderline vulgar, but thousands of French girls to this day answer to the name Fanny.

As a young girl, and to this day my grandmother uses the phrase ‘ stop being such a Fanny Adams‘ when we (that is, her delightful grandchildren) are being particularly difficult, although the more common phrase you’ll hear people using is ‘Sweet Fanny Adams‘,  which means something completely different:  ‘nothing at all’.

I have a naturally curious mind, any yet it was only last year that it occurred to me to look up who exactly Fanny Adams was.

It’s not a pretty, bedtime-esque story, harking back to August 1867, when a girl named Fanny Adams was rather brutally murdered, causing a wave of horror in the small village of Alton, Hampshire not used to bearing witness to such crimes.

Fanny was with her younger sister Lizzie and friend Minnie at the time when they were approached by a man who offered three halfpence to Lizzie and Minnie to go spend, whilst he offered Fanny a halfpenny on the condition that she would accompany him down a road which lead to the nearby village of Shalden. The link to my Grandmother’s phrase is likely Fanny’s reaction to the offer of money: she took the halfpenny, but refused to accompany the man. However, he picked her up and carried her off anyways.

The second phrase comes courtesy of the rather dark sense of humour of British Sailors, who came to claim that the tinned mutton served to them onboard must surely be the remains of ‘Sweet Fanny Adams‘, a reference to her dismembered remains and this has since passed into common usage, with the meaning later changing to the one we know.

Which leads us ultimately to discussing the name Fanny itself, which as you may have guess from above did originally derive as a nickname from Frances.

Referencing back to the tale of Fanny Adams, one might dabble with the idea of the three girls being called Frances, Elizabeth and Wilhelmina, however, I’m hesitant to accept this given that both her tombstone and the record of her death both give her name as Fanny.

The name Frances comes from the Latin franciscus, which means frenchman. However, french name website gives the meaning of Fanny to be free. I have an inkling about where this interpretation could’ve derived from as you see, in 1999 the fine country of France decided to give up it’s old currency and take on the Euro.

It’s old currency was known as the French franc, and the origin of the name of the currency lies in the origin of the currency itself.

The first French franc came into play in 1360, and was used to pay the ransom of King John II of France which gained the king’s freedom. Since the coin showed the King atop a horse, the coin came to be named franc à cheval, which in French means free on horse. These days a Frenchman is more inclined to use the word libre to mean free.

Of course, that’s all just pure speculation.

Another reason that the the new currency came to be known as the franc comes from the Latin title of the King: Francorum Rex (King of the Francs).

Going back to Fanny, the name is of relative popularity in France as I’ve already mentioned above, and continues to be so despite the English connotations. It’s also worth noting that Fanny is popular as a stand alone name in France, rather than being popular as a nickname for Frances (which is nowhere near as popular).

The days if you’re looking for a nickname for little Frances, your best bet is probably popular Frankie, or even Frannie, as opposed to Fanny.

Categories: Name Profile | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Fanny

  1. Pingback: Fanny | Names |

  2. Filippa

    Fanny is a fairly common name in Sweden (presumably in the rest of Scandinavia too, I’m just too lazy to check it out) as well, but because of the Swedish pronounciation it sounds rather like “funny” than fanny in English. The meanings listed on the various naming sites I checked are unsurprisingly the same, though.


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