Posts Tagged With: Fanny




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.

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Slightly More French

Julien Quentin, from Au Revoir Mes Enfants, from

Last week we talked about French names which could work just as well in the English-speaking world. Now it’s time for a look at the flip side of the coin at which popular French names are less likely to work well, whether it be due to cultural settings or pronunciation problems. This list is subject to opinion, however, as what I’m not saying is that you should avoid all names mentioned here. What I am saying is that these names have the potential to cause fret if used outside a French-speaking region. In the last post I highlighted the name Thibault, with the less than obvious pronunciation of tee-bo – but there are plenty of other French names which could trip you up when it comes to trying to say them correctly:

That’s one of the biggest issue when it comes to using names from other cultures: the pronunciation problems. Mireille certainly looks pretty, and sounds pretty when said the way the French do: mee-ray. It’s also worth warning that the French pronounce Camille differently to the English – the ls are silent, plus the name is also considered very much unisex over there. Same goes for Sacha, and Jocelyn is strictly male. As for Quentin, he’s said something like CAWN-ten. The other classic example is Guillaume – the French form of William – which they pronounce as gee-om.

The sole female name I find myself strongly advising against you want to use a legitimately French name, but live in the States, or worse yet England? Fanny. It’s actually quite reasonably well-used in France to this day, and certainly used to enjoy a reasonable amount of popularity back in ye olde days, but given what it’s become slang for in the English-speaking world – especially England – it’s a name that will likely never take off as fellow Frances-derivative named Frankie is. If you want to use Frances, but don’t want you’re daughter to become Frankie, might I suggest Annie or Effie as alternatives.

I also mentioned in the last post how the French use Bastien as a short form of Sebastian – but like Fanny could lead to associations to less-than-wonderful words. It’s a slight shame really, and Bastien could work if you wanted it to. Bastien has popular use in his own right in France. Two other male names which takes on a whole new meaning in France are Come and Loan.

Capucine is a female name in France, and it distinctly similar to our word capuccino. Is it slightly too French? I hesistated when it came to including this name in this post, but feel it’s worth highlighting the name either way.

Whilst not strictly a French name, they do love the name Thais – said tah-eese – which strictly speaking comes from Ancient Greek. It’s popular following it’s use by French composer Jules Massenet. French film Les Enfants du Paradis has been attributed to the popularity of the female name Garance.

In France, Etienne is clearly masculine as he’s their form of Stephen, but I’ve had plenty friends mistake him as a female name. You can understand why, given that many French female names end -enne, think: Adrienne;Vivienne et al. Elouan also falls slightly foul of this, as does Rayane. In France, Valentin is more popular for lads than Valentine is for females, although both are relatively well-used in their own rights. My sister’s favourite name in this category which we shall end with is Sofiane, which is a popular name for males, not females.

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