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Old 12-14-2011, 02:24 PM
Malleus, Incus, Stapes! Malleus, Incus, Stapes! is offline
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The evolution of "fanny"

Just wondering: in America, fanny is an innocuous, somewhat childish term for the butt. In England, and Australia, and probably other English-speaking countries as well, fanny is a crude term for female genitalia.
How did the American fanny go from front to back and rude to something you'd say to a class of kindergarteners? Did the meaning and the politeness level change at the same time, or did one come before the other?
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Old 12-14-2011, 02:29 PM
Anaamika Anaamika is offline
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I don't know the answer but I wanted to add to your thread - don't ever say "fannypack" to an Englishman. Oo boy, he will never stop mocking you.
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Old 12-14-2011, 02:52 PM
aldiboronti aldiboronti is online now
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The OED isn't much help, giving 'origin unknown' for both British and American senses. FWIW the earliest cites are for the British sense.

Here's the entry with a few early cites.

Quote:
fanny, n.4

Etymology: Orig. unknown.
slang.

1. = backside n. 3 (orig. and chiefly U.S.).

1928 B. Hecht & C. MacArthur Front Page ii. 115 Parking her fanny in here.
1930 N. Coward Private Lives i, You'd fallen on your fanny a few moments before.

2. The female genitals. (Chiefly British English.)

1879 Pearl I. 82 You shan't look at my fanny for nothing.
1889 A. Barrère & C. G. Leland Dict. Slang I. 354/2 Fanny (common), the fem. pud.
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Old 12-14-2011, 04:01 PM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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America isn't the only place where "fanny" = "buttocks". Look up the game of petanque and the usage of the term "fanny" there.


I have no idea of the relationship betwween these terms, but, clearly, there's more to the history of "fanny" than simply Americans swtiching around the British terms. Has the British slang term always referred strictly to genitalia? Or has this been a case where a term for general unspeakables got restricted to one area in Britain (and other English-speaking countries) and a different are in America?
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Old 12-14-2011, 04:42 PM
USCDiver USCDiver is offline
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I don't know the answer but I wanted to add to your thread - don't ever say "fannypack" to an Englishman. Oo boy, he will never stop mocking you.
And vice versa for the equivalent British term, 'bum pack'. *snicker*
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Old 12-14-2011, 05:51 PM
jjimm jjimm is offline
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And vice versa for the equivalent British term, 'bum pack'. *snicker*
It's actually 'bum bag'.
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Old 12-14-2011, 06:10 PM
USCDiver USCDiver is offline
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It's actually 'bum bag'.
I think that might be even funnier!
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Old 12-15-2011, 07:30 AM
Hogfather65 Hogfather65 is offline
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And vice versa for the equivalent British term, 'bum pack'. *snicker*
Bum Bag - never used bum pack....
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Old 12-14-2011, 04:40 PM
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In my family tree a few generations back there is a woman named Fanny. Imagine traveling to England with that name :X
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Old 12-14-2011, 04:48 PM
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In my family tree a few generations back there is a woman named Fanny. Imagine traveling to England with that name :X
The third verse of Jingle Bells:
Quote:
A day or two ago
I thought I'd take a ride
And soon Miss Fanny Bright
Was seated by my side
The horse was lean and lank
Misfortune seemed his lot
We got into a drifted bank
And then we got upsot
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Old 12-14-2011, 04:56 PM
Hokkaido Brit Hokkaido Brit is offline
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In my family tree a few generations back there is a woman named Fanny. Imagine traveling to England with that name :X
Lots and lots of women in Victorian times were called Fanny - a very common name.

In British slang there's a phrase Sweet Fanny Adams, which has come to be a politer version of Sweet FA. But my Dad used to call me Fanny Adams when I misbehaved and even today (he's in his mid-seventies) he refers to any female that he doesn't approve of as Fanny Adams. (Like a co-worker he hated - he'd always come home and say "Fanny Adams was up to her tricks again today" etc.)

So, thanks to this thread I just looked up Fanny Adams and was saddened to see that the original was an eight year old girl murdered in the 1800's, disemboweled and disfigured. Sailors then started referring to their rations as Fanny Adams (her guts were spread over a wide area) and from there on it came to mean "nothing" or "worthless" and then expanded to cover Sweet FA.

Poor little girl..............

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Old 12-14-2011, 05:09 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is online now
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It's hard to believe there's no connection to John Cleland's Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure better known as Fanny Hill. The name is dead giveaway and the British audience, who all learned Latin at school, would absolutely get the pun on mons veneris. The book is from 1748 and famous even when banned so the phrase would be common.
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Old 12-14-2011, 06:07 PM
Jaledin Jaledin is offline
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It's hard to believe there's no connection to John Cleland's Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure better known as Fanny Hill.
Damn it, you sniped me. I never thought about the pun in Latin, probably because I didn't know Latin when I read the little book, but I remember lividly the various descriptions of penetration in there.

Why don't "we" call a dick a "stretcher" anymore? And when did such a term begin to be used for a litter whose purpose is the carrying of the impotent?

ETA "bum bag." Hilarious. Also, kind of gross.

Last edited by Jaledin; 12-14-2011 at 06:10 PM.
  #14  
Old 12-15-2011, 02:41 AM
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ETA "bum bag." Hilarious. Also, kind of gross.
Two nations, separated by a single language. 'Fanny pack' sounds like a sanitary device, to UK ears. Funny really.
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Old 12-14-2011, 05:26 PM
brittekland brittekland is offline
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Very strange story."Mrs Adams ran to The Butts field where her husband, bricklayer[3] George Adams, was playing cricket"... interesting.

It's good to know what fanny can mean and it brings new meaning to Fanny Mae chocolate.
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Old 12-14-2011, 06:11 PM
samclem samclem is offline
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There's an 1835-40 cite in British English for fanny which is absolutely the genitalia.
Quote:
I've got a little Fanny/That with hair is overspread.
It was a music hall song.
Jon Lighter, who edited and wrote the classic work Random House Dictionary of Amercan Slang also suggests that it could have derived from the Fanny Hill novel as harpo suggested upthread.

The US sense is found around WWI. While that suggests to me that they got it from the English during the war, how it came to be the buttocks in US slang isn't clear.
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Old 12-14-2011, 06:30 PM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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Petanque is a French game, similar to Italian Bocce. Regarding fanny:

Quote:
To fanny (mettre fanny in French)
To beat one's opponents 13 to 0. The figure of a bare-bottomed lass named Fanny is ubiquitous in Provence wherever pétanque is played. It is traditional that when a player loses 13 to 0 it is said that “il est fanny” (he's fanny) or “il a fait fanny” (he made fanny), and that he has to kiss the bottom of a girl called Fanny. Since there is rarely an obliging Fanny's behind handy, there is usually a substitute picture, woodcarving or pottery so that Fanny’s bottom is available. More often, the team which made "fanny" has to offer a beverage to the winning team (see the French popular expression "Fanny paie à boire !").
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petanque

Pictures of same:

http://www.simplytreasures.com/t-la_fanny.aspx

http://petanque.org/pictures/306.shtml

http://petanqueamericaopen.blogspot....out-fanny.html

http://www.angelfire.com/crazy2/petanque/english.html

http://users.adam.com.au/beaumont/ph.../fannypics.htm


Please note that these are French in origin, as is the game, and clearly owes nothing to American usage of the word.



Noel Coward evidently used "fanny" to mean "rear end" in his play Private Lives, so the use isn't alien in the UK.

I'd love to see citations for "fanny" for both "rear end" and "genitals", and see how far back they go. Eric Partridge also suggested Cleland's book as an origin for the use of the term for the genitals, but is the term of such relatively recent origin? (Yes, I know how old "Fanny Hil" is. I've read it.)




This is interesting:

Quote:

Fanny:

"buttocks," 1920, Amer.Eng., from earlier British meaning "vulva" (1879), perhaps from the name of John Cleland's heroine in the scandalous novel "Fanny Hill or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure" (1748). The fem. proper name is a dim. of Frances. The genital sense is still the primary one outside U.S., but is not current in Amer.Eng., a difference which can have consequences when U.S. TV programs and movies air in Britain.
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=buttocks



But I'd trust the other OED more. I don't know where the Online Etymology Dictionary gets their references from. And how old the the Petanque use of the term?

Last edited by CalMeacham; 12-14-2011 at 06:33 PM.
  #18  
Old 12-15-2011, 02:26 AM
psychonaut psychonaut is offline
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Lots and lots of women in Victorian times were called Fanny - a very common name.
It's not unheard of even today. There was a famous British cookery writer and television chef named Fanny Cradock.
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Old 12-15-2011, 04:21 AM
jjimm jjimm is offline
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It's not unheard of even today. There was a famous British cookery writer and television chef named Fanny Cradock.
Let us not forget that she did her cooking show with her husband... Johnny.

(For non-UKians, that's a euphemism for condom.)
  #20  
Old 12-15-2011, 07:22 AM
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Let us not forget that she did her cooking show with her husband... Johnny.

(For non-UKians, that's a euphemism for condom.)
...Or that BBC presenter Frank Bough once (allegedly) said in a link to her show, "I hope your doughnuts turn out like Fanny's"
  #21  
Old 12-15-2011, 03:39 AM
jjimm jjimm is offline
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In British slang there's a phrase Sweet Fanny Adams, which has come to be a politer version of Sweet FA.
I had a teacher who considered "Sweet Fanny Adams" a little too racy, and used the 'euphemism' "Sweet Felicity Arkwright".
  #22  
Old 12-15-2011, 07:32 AM
Hogfather65 Hogfather65 is offline
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In my family tree a few generations back there is a woman named Fanny. Imagine traveling to England with that name :X
Famous English cook in the 70's was Fanny Craddock
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Old 12-15-2011, 07:55 AM
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Famous English cook in the 70's was Fanny Craddock
You don't say?
  #24  
Old 12-15-2011, 08:46 AM
Annie-Xmas Annie-Xmas is online now
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Remember the lyrics to the theme song of The Nanny?

She was working in a bridal shop in Flushing, Queens,
'Til her boyfriend kicked her out in one of those crushing scenes.
What was she to do? Where was she to go? She was out on her fanny...

Trust the Brits to drive on the wrong side of the road.
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Old 12-15-2011, 09:23 AM
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Any Brits I host in Helsinki tend to get a giggle out of a local restaurant next to Sinebrychoff Park. The food is good, it's great for brunch, and the atmosphere's nice but...well.
  #26  
Old 12-14-2011, 06:47 PM
OpalCat OpalCat is offline
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Question for UK and such countries: would a child get in trouble for saying "fanny" the way a child in the US would get for saying, say, "cunt" or something? Or is it not that bad?
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Old 12-14-2011, 07:16 PM
jjimm jjimm is offline
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Originally Posted by OpalCat View Post
Question for UK and such countries: would a child get in trouble for saying "fanny" the way a child in the US would get for saying, say, "cunt" or something? Or is it not that bad?
It's not rude per se, just the subject matter that is 'tittilating'. It's a juvenile word, the kind that one would expect a child to use, and that parents of a female child might give her to use refer to her genitals.
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Old 12-15-2011, 09:31 AM
Cinnamon Imp Cinnamon Imp is offline
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Originally Posted by jjimm View Post
It's not rude per se, just the subject matter that is 'tittilating'. It's a juvenile word, the kind that one would expect a child to use, and that parents of a female child might give her to use refer to her genitals.
Not in my experience. As a female child, if I'd said "fanny" in front of my parents, I'd have expected to be told off for saying a rude word. Both it and willie[1] were our childish swear words.

I don't think we knew the grown up versions, so to us these were the height of rudeness, and yes, if a teacher had to read them out, the class would dissolve into hysterical laughter.

[1] Penis. We loved the film Free Willy over here, oh yes
  #29  
Old 12-15-2011, 11:32 AM
jjimm jjimm is offline
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Not in my experience. As a female child, if I'd said "fanny" in front of my parents, I'd have expected to be told off for saying a rude word. Both it and willie[1] were our childish swear words.
Ma's out, pa's out, let's talk rude: pee poo belly bum drawers.

Out of interest, what were you told to call yours? I think my sisters were told to use fanny (1970s) as opposed to other friends I've discussed this with who used "foo foo", "patata" (Italian for "potato"), and "penol blein" (Welsh for "front bottom")!
  #30  
Old 12-15-2011, 12:09 PM
Cinnamon Imp Cinnamon Imp is offline
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Originally Posted by jjimm View Post
Ma's out, pa's out, let's talk rude: pee poo belly bum drawers.
Knickers!

Quote:
Out of interest, what were you told to call yours? I think my sisters were told to use fanny (1970s) as opposed to other friends I've discussed this with who used "foo foo", "patata" (Italian for "potato"), and "penol blein" (Welsh for "front bottom")!
I think it was "front bottom" and wet or dirty, for wee and poo.

How dreadfully middle class, I know!
  #31  
Old 12-15-2011, 12:59 PM
Springtime for Spacers Springtime for Spacers is online now
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Ma's out, pa's out, let's talk rude: pee poo belly bum drawers.

Out of interest, what were you told to call yours? I think my sisters were told to use fanny (1970s) as opposed to other friends I've discussed this with who used "foo foo", "patata" (Italian for "potato"), and "penol blein" (Welsh for "front bottom")!
Sadly, if my mother referred to it all, she would say "Down there" pointing into her lap with a look of distaste (60s/70s, older mum).
  #32  
Old 12-15-2011, 01:13 PM
Johanna Johanna is offline
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Originally Posted by jjimm View Post
Ma's out, pa's out, let's talk rude: pee poo belly bum drawers.

Out of interest, what were you told to call yours? I think my sisters were told to use fanny (1970s) as opposed to other friends I've discussed this with who used "foo foo", "patata" (Italian for "potato"), and "penol blein" (Welsh for "front bottom")!
China.
  #33  
Old 12-15-2011, 09:26 PM
Malleus, Incus, Stapes! Malleus, Incus, Stapes! is offline
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Originally Posted by jjimm View Post
Let us not forget that she did her cooking show with her husband... Johnny.

(For non-UKians, that's a euphemism for condom.)
Quote:
Originally Posted by hermette View Post
Not in my experience. As a female child, if I'd said "fanny" in front of my parents, I'd have expected to be told off for saying a rude word. Both it and willie[1] were our childish swear words.

I don't think we knew the grown up versions, so to us these were the height of rudeness, and yes, if a teacher had to read them out, the class would dissolve into hysterical laughter.

[1] Penis. We loved the film Free Willy over here, oh yes
We're familiar with willy, johnson, etc here in America, too.
  #34  
Old 12-16-2011, 02:02 AM
Cinnamon Imp Cinnamon Imp is offline
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We're familiar with willy, johnson, etc here in America, too.
I don't think I've ever heard Johnson used. Given most UK kids grow up using Johnson & Johnsons bath products, I'm sure that would've been a source of great mirth if we had that one

Is it true that Peter is another one for penis?
  #35  
Old 12-15-2011, 02:35 AM
An Gadaí An Gadaí is offline
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Question for UK and such countries: would a child get in trouble for saying "fanny" the way a child in the US would get for saying, say, "cunt" or something? Or is it not that bad?
In Ireland it seems to have gone out of fashion. I can think of two times in my adult life I've heard it although it was very common when I was a little boy in the '80s.
  #36  
Old 12-15-2011, 02:40 AM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
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Originally Posted by OpalCat View Post
Question for UK and such countries: would a child get in trouble for saying "fanny" the way a child in the US would get for saying, say, "cunt" or something? Or is it not that bad?
On some sort of unified scale of rudeness, it's somewhere around the same level as 'dick'. Not *quite* as rude as 'pussy', IMO.
  #37  
Old 12-15-2011, 03:50 AM
SunSandSuffering SunSandSuffering is offline
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As kids we used to kill ourselves with laughter at the mention of "Aunt Fanny" in the Famous Five novels by Enid Blyton.
  #38  
Old 12-15-2011, 04:03 AM
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I suspect that a proper fanny didn't evolve until at least when out ancestors started walking upright - most likely in high-heel sandals I would imagine.
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Old 12-15-2011, 04:48 AM
An Gadaí An Gadaí is offline
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The author Fanny Flagg gets the odd titter as well.
  #40  
Old 12-15-2011, 06:49 AM
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There is a story about the filming of Cleopatra, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, stating that the American director told the British actor Burton to "Grab her by the fanny!", which he did.
  #41  
Old 12-15-2011, 12:57 PM
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The author Fanny Flagg gets the odd titter as well.
Transcribing Victorian grave records I came across the unfortunate Fanny Wragg.
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Old 12-15-2011, 01:28 PM
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I can't believe I didn't think to post this earlier (NSFW Scottish sketch illustrating the use of the word)

"Gie us a swatch o yir" roughly translates as "Give us a look at your" if that helps...
  #43  
Old 12-16-2011, 03:18 AM
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Malleus, Incus, Stapes!, "johnny" means "condom". We don't use "Johnson" for penis.
  #44  
Old 12-16-2011, 11:18 AM
Malleus, Incus, Stapes! Malleus, Incus, Stapes! is offline
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Right, I'm just saying that if I heard something along the lines of "a johnny, wink wink", I'd understand it has something to do with penises. Or anything with peter, too.
  #45  
Old 12-16-2011, 12:40 PM
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Right, I'm just saying that if I heard something along the lines of "a johnny, wink wink", I'd understand it has something to do with penises. Or anything with peter, too.
Yeah, but if you thought it meant penis then you'd get a rather different image when told that someone saw a johnny discarded in the gutter.
  #46  
Old 12-16-2011, 12:14 PM
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As a word for female genitalia Fanny is quite innocuous and funny, it has returned to its rightful place as a mild rude word, UK women are quite at home discussing their Fanny related matters with each other.

Australians however, being the uncouth, sun baked primates that they are, have some appallingly disgusting words for the front ladyparts which I won't repeat in case there are women or people from Canadia present.

Actually since we are on the subject of Transatlantic words, the mild swearword Bugger in the UK has a more sexual connotation than the N. American use of the word.
  #47  
Old 12-16-2011, 04:44 PM
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I once saw on an American programme (family one as well), a man complaining about how he'd been shagging his fanny all day..........................

And he was COMPLANING !
  #48  
Old 12-16-2011, 10:38 PM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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I heard "tallywhacker" mentioned only rarely in my idyllic NE Ohio youth, as a self-consciously rural, semi-humorous term for the penis.

"Fanny" was a completely tame and childish term for the buttocks, male or female, that you might use without fear of punishment in front of an adult.
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