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Fannying about...

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631843.  Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:15 am Reply with quote

...A phrase which I often use to describe what I'm doing when I should be doing something more important.

Whilst indulging in a spot of surfing on my phone yesterday, the Word Of The Day caught my eye...


A self-indulgent person who spends time avoiding work or other useful activity.

Another definition that I've found...

Given to doing nothing; idle. See synonyms at lazy.

An irresponsible idler; a sluggard.

[French, alteration (influenced by fait néant, does nothing) of Old French faignant, idler, from present participle of faindre, feindre, to feign. See feign.]

Are the two expressions related?

Spud McLaren
639136.  Sat Nov 21, 2009 9:01 pm Reply with quote

Maybe; similar to the Derbys/Yorks/some neighbouring counties' mardy - meaning petulant, inclined to whinge - supposedly deriving either from the French merde, or from a word which is the common root of both terms. I don't buy the OED's derivation from marred, nor from the Welsh village of Maerdy, since I quite clearly remember the expression mard-arsed (acting like a toddler who's shit himself).

Of all the places to find a French derivative!

Last edited by Spud McLaren on Sat Nov 21, 2009 9:29 pm; edited 1 time in total

Sadurian Mike
639138.  Sat Nov 21, 2009 9:05 pm Reply with quote

We also say "arsing about", "dicking about" and so on. Maybe it is just another one of those phrases simply derived from the associated swear word?

639140.  Sat Nov 21, 2009 9:09 pm Reply with quote

Such as 'farting around', perhaps?

Sadurian Mike
639141.  Sat Nov 21, 2009 9:10 pm Reply with quote

Quite so.

639207.  Sun Nov 22, 2009 9:11 am Reply with quote

"Fannying about" is a primarily British expression, so I suspect it's euphemistic, with "fannying" replacing another word with the same first letter.

Spud McLaren
639208.  Sun Nov 22, 2009 9:20 am Reply with quote


Since Sweet Fanny Adams means - err, nothing, is fannying about a derivation meaning doing nothing or acting ineffectually (and therefore effectively doing nothing)?

Yes, I know - splitting hairs (if you'll pardon the expression).

639209.  Sun Nov 22, 2009 9:25 am Reply with quote

So it's short for "Fanny Adams-ing about" - yes, that seems entirely plausible.

726730.  Fri Jul 09, 2010 8:35 am Reply with quote

Sweet Fanny Adams has a strange etymology. Fanny Adams was an eight year old murdered in 1867 who was murdered by Frederick Baker, a solicitor's clerk, horribly butchered in a hop field. Because of the way tinned mutton looked (and due to their morbid sense of humour) British seaman called it 'Fanny Adams'. Because it had the same initials as f*** all, sweet Fanny Adams came to mean Sweet F*** all-nothing, but Fanny Adams has never meant f*** all.

726754.  Fri Jul 09, 2010 10:21 am Reply with quote


post 291413

Spud McLaren
726758.  Fri Jul 09, 2010 10:33 am Reply with quote

plinkplonk wrote:
... sweet Fanny Adams came to mean Sweet F*** all-nothing, but Fanny Adams has never meant f*** all.

Sorry, you've lost me there.

plinkplonk wrote:
"sweet Fanny Adams came to mean Sweet F*** all"...
"Fanny Adams has never meant f*** all"

The only difference is the presence of the word "sweet", and in the (many) speakers I've heard use the expressions, no differentiation was made.

726768.  Fri Jul 09, 2010 10:52 am Reply with quote

I think what he means to say is that when Fanny Adams was used as a phrase, it was to mean the meat, and it was then meant as a phrase to mean nothing.

It's likely that when some people started using "Sweet F.A." others thought it meant "Sweet Fuck All" and that took off as a phrase as well, but Fanny Adams was never meant as a replacement for that phrase.

Spud McLaren
726769.  Fri Jul 09, 2010 10:54 am Reply with quote

No, it mightn't have been meant. But here we are in the 21st century...

Ion Zone
750876.  Sun Oct 10, 2010 3:01 pm Reply with quote


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