Lost in translation

Many years ago, shortly after I got heavily into romance and was buying heaps of US-published books, I read the phrase, “He patted her on the fanny.” It wasn’t the first time I’d come across the word “fanny” but it sure was the first time I’d seen it used like that. I did the classic blink and jaw-sag thing. And then I carefully read the phrase again in case I’d missed something important. I mean to say, if any guy who wasn’t my DH casually patted me on the fanny, I’d be trying out some of those dirty karate moves (the ones our Sensei cautions us shouldn’t be used in the dojo during kumite) on him.

Nope, I hadn’t missed anything. So I closed my still sagging jaw, snickered a bit because I figured it had to be a typo–and what a typo!–and continued reading.

A little later on, I came across “fanny pack”, and from the context I figured out it had to be what we here in New Zealand call a “bum bag” i.e. a belt bag or waist bag, that people use to carry around their valuables.

Lightbulb moment. Ohhhhh.

So in the US, fanny must be a slang term for your butt, not your, ah, front. And Googling the term confirmed this was one of those words that had been kinda  lost in translation between US English slang and New Zealand English slang. *g*

Since then I’ve discovered a few little US gems that have done this poor Kiwi gal’s head in until I Googled them, but “fanny” remains my all-time favorite NZ vs US word.

Hey did you know that “fanny” is also a verb? I had no idea.

So without further ado, the Word of the Week is, you guessed it….

FANNY: noun
1) buttocks
2) female genitals (vulgar form)
3) tin container for drink (origin perhaps around 20th C?)
4) woman’s Christian name

FANNY: noun & verb
1) to deceive and persuade (by glib talk)

And expanding on what’s turned out to be quite a fascinating word indeed, you may have heard the phrase, “Sweet Fanny Adams” which means “nothing at all”. But did you know that “Fanny Adams” is a nautical slang term meaning “tinned meat, or stew”?

You learn something new every day. In this case, that used car salesmen & are masters at fannying. *excuse me while I snicker at that one* And that we, in New Zealand, are rather vulgar… if my dictionary is to be believed *g*.



(Who is now planning on doing Sweet Fanny Adams… namely watching a DVD with DD who’s home sick from school, because I’ve been ignoring her and working all morning.)

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4 Responses to “Lost in translation”

  1. Yes, it threw me too when I first heard how the word was used.

    I remember The Nanny’s opening song – she was kicked out on her fanny. hmmmm…. yes, well.

    I also remember doing a bus tour with American tourists and they looked at me funny when I said ‘bum bag’. LOL!

  2. Mary Preston says:

    I’m in Australia & I have always taken FANNY to mean bottom. Funny old world.

    • I’m amazed at how different some of the slang between NZ and Australia can be, considering how closely we interact. When I stayed in Aus (Surfers, & then Perth) for 6 months, I got teased about my accent big-time, but I’d expected that *g*. I didn’t expect to be confused by the slang, though. Like ordering a beer in a bar. I seem to remember “pots” & “midis” & “schooners”? Most of it was easy to figure out, like bathers & swimmers rather than togs, eski instead of chilly bin etc etc. It was a bit of a culture shock I hadn’t been expecting!