“Every expat in LA has to decide which way they’re going to go at some point, and it seems a hell of a lot easier to potter around muttering away about sweet Fanny Adams, barge poles and seeing a man about a dog than to adopt a ghastly transatlantic whine, have the fat sucked out of my thighs and injected back into my lips (so that I’m literally – to borrow from one American humorist – ‘kissing ass’).” — Celia Walden in the Daily Telegraph, 6 Nov 2014
In 1869, British seamen started getting new rations of tinned mutton. Distinctly unimpressed by this foodstuff, and possessed of a dark humor, the sailors joked that it must be the butchered remains of Fanny Adams, the victim of a brutal murder a couple of years earlier. Her name, with “sweet” in front of it, quickly became a euphemism for ‘sweet nothing’ throughout the armed services, and eventually passed into general usage. For Brits, it means zip. Zilch. Zero. Nada. Sod all. Its abbreviated version, “Sweet F. A.”, can also translate to the more vulgar “sweet f*** all”.
The Curtis Museum in Alton tells the full grisly story of sweet Fanny Adams.
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