Fen Country Fanny

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Luca Afortunado, Mar 28, 2018.

  1. Luca Afortunado New Member

    I'm reading an essay by Max Beerbohm, ''Howe Shall I word it?''. He names two tittles, ''Fen Country Fanny'' and ''The Track of Blood''. I don't quite get the irony of these tittles; especially the first one. Please can anyone help?

    It would seem that I am one of those travelers for whom the railway bookstall does not cater. Whenever I start on a journey, I find that my choice lies between well-printed books which I have no wish to read, and well-written books which I could not read without permanent injury to my eyesight. The keeper of the bookstall, seeing me gaze vaguely along his shelves, suggests that I should take “Fen Country Fanny” or else “The Track of Blood” and have done with it.

  2. The Newt

    The Newt Senior Member

    USA / EEUU
    English - US
    "Fanny" in the UK has risqué connotations, so the idea here may be that the traveler is being advised either to read something quasi-pornographic or a "penny dreadful" crime novel.
  3. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    "Fanny" is the diminutive of the feminine name Frances. In the 19th Century (and keep in mind that Max Beerbohm was born in 1872), it was a very common name for girls and women, and had no risqué connotation at all for the middle classes -- note, for example, that the heroine of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park is a girl named Fanny. "Fen Country Fanny" (which is an imaginary book) was highly unlikely to have been quasi-pornographic, but instead sounds like a sweet but dull Victorian tale of a simple, unaffected girl from the Fen country whose name is Fanny.
  4. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    Note that those are "titles", not "tittles".
  5. Chasint Senior Member

    English - England

    Fen Country Fanny sounds like the sort of fiction that would be read by a young woman of those times.

    The Track of Blood sounds like a gory novel about murder - a thriller.

    There is no irony - he is simply describing the cheap and cheerful literature that was to be found on railway stations. He says he doesn't want to read such trivial pieces of fiction.
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2018
  6. Luca Afortunado New Member


    I've found no meaning for 'fanny' but the one with 'risqué connotations.' I am shocked that this writer, Beerbohm, uses this word. Thanks very much
  7. Chasint Senior Member

    English - England
    Yes you have. :confused: It is explained below.

    Fanny Adams (1859–1867), English murder victim
    Fanny Ardant (born 1949), French actress
    Fanny Blankers-Koen (1918–2004), Dutch track and field athlete, Olympic and world champion and world record holder
    Fanny Brice (1891–1951), stage name for the American comedian, actress and singer
    Fanny Brownbill (1890–1948), Australian pioneering politician
    Fanny Cano (1944–1983), Mexican actress and producer
    Fanny Chmelar (born 1985), German alpine skier
    Fanny Jackson Coppin (1837–1913), African-American educator and missionary
    Fanny Cory (1877–1972), artist and illustrator best known for her comic strip Little Miss Muffet
    Fanny Cottençon (born 1957), French actress
    Fanny Davenport (1850–1898), Anglo-American stage actress
    Fanny Davies (1861–1934), British pianist
    Fanny Elssler (1810–1884), Austrian ballerina
    Fanny Farmer, American candy manufacturer and retailer
    Fanny Fischer (born 1986), German sprint canoer
    Fanny Furner (1864–1938), Australian activist for the rights of women and children
    Fanny Holland (1847–1931), English singer and comic actress
    Fanny Howe (born 1940), American poet, novelist, and short story writer
    Fanny (name) - Wikipedia
  8. Keith Bradford

    Keith Bradford Senior Member

    Brittany, NW France
    English (Midlands UK)
    That's because you ignored the capital letter.
  9. Chasint Senior Member

    English - England
    Try googling fanny name
    fanny name - Google Search
  10. Luca Afortunado New Member

    Thanks very much.
  11. Luca Afortunado New Member

  12. Luca Afortunado New Member

  13. Hermione Golightly

    Hermione Golightly Senior Member

    British English
    I wouldn't be at all surprised if the title does have a humorous double meaning. Those who didn't know that 'fanny' is slang for the female genitals, would of course take it at face value.
    There's the first erotic novel The Memoirs of Fanny Hill, A Woman of Pleasure published in 1748. The name 'Fanny Hill' is supposed to be a version of the Latin mons veneris, *mound of Venus*, or mons pubis, the pubic mound, or 'hill'.
    The Fenlands are very flat and were viewed as extremely boring. Some of the areas that constitute the Fens are still to this day by some people regarded as backward and inbred.
    The idea that everybody in the 19th century including the middle classes lived innocent and sexless lives is far from the truth. There's the male middle class world of artists and writers, and there's the bourgeoisie. It's just a question of acknowledging in public what you know.
    'Fanny' seems to have been forgotten in favour of ghastly fool euphemisms, far more vulgar.
    * added *
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2018
  14. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    While it may be far from the truth, it is also far from likely that people at any time commonly give their infant daughters names that have commonly-recognized double meanings, and that may make people snicker. While "Fanny" now has that association, and no one in Britain today would use it as a name for a little girl, it seems not to have had that association in Beerbohm's own day. In 1860, "Fanny" was the 18th most popular name given to girls born that year in the UK. In 1870, it had slipped down a little to #23, in 1880 was #37, and in 1890 was still very popular at #51.
    Name Data
    In addition, "Frances" was also very popular, and many of those Franceses would also have been commonly called "Fanny." I suspect that the situation is analogous to the use of the name "Randy" in the US compared to the UK: because "randy" is not commonly used with a salacious meaning on this side of the Atlantic, there is no hesitation to give it as a baby name, while the situation in the UK is rather different. In the same way, the popularity of "Fanny" as a name for baby girls in Beerbohm's own day strongly suggests that most people at that time did not associate the name with anything less than innocent.
  15. Truffula

    Truffula Senior Member

    English - USA
    See this information on the slang usage of "fanny" - The Grammarphobia Blog: Jane Austen's "Fanny"

    According to this, it was well enough known in the 1890s in the slang British meaning to appear in a dictionary of slang. "A British slang dictionary published in 1889 defined “fanny” as “the fem. pud.” (the female pudenda)." Given the subject matter of this essay "How Shall I Word It?" (apparently published in 1910) is that people are too high-minded, it seems likely to me that Beerbohm did intend a double entendre - both the innocent meaning as the obvious surface meaning, and the dirty one as a sly wink at his audience.
  16. dojibear

    dojibear Senior Member

    Fresno CA
    English - Northeast US
    Amazing! I shall have to be careful from now on.

    It does not have this meaning in AE. In AE, "fanny" is slang for the buttocks of either gender. And it is one of the mildest words used for "buttocks": it is more polite than "bum" or "butt".

    In the U.S. "Fanny/Fannie" was a common female name before 1950. There are several famous entertainers with that name, such as Fanny Brice. And back when I was growing up, every kitchen had "Fannie Farmer's Cookbook".
  17. Hermione Golightly

    Hermione Golightly Senior Member

    British English
    'Fanny' isn't a particularly dirty word here. Maybe not at all dirty. I'm sure I've read that it's commonly used in families the same way that 'willy' is used for penis.

    There are plenty of personal names which have double meanings either British or American. 'Randy' comes to mind first, British English for 'horny'.
    'Bawdy' humour started getting smothered at some point, but when you know what's going on, Shakespeare can provide a double meaning a minute. It wasn't until the famous trial of the publishers of Lady Chatterly's Lover in the early 1960's that the gross hypocrisy of British prudery was revealed. Would you let your wife or woman-servant read this book, to paraphrase the prosecution.

Share This Page