I am not a native English speaker, hence please bear with me.

I understand that fanny means mess around and waste time. Can someone suggest how I might make a sentence which uses fanny, as an equivalent to

Don't waste my time.

Also, it would be great if someone can explain under what circumstances we can replace wasting time with fannying about.

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    Also, @Mari-LouA urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=fannying – Kris Sep 8 '14 at 4:42
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    @Mari-LouA Yes I have. In British sitcom, The Thin Blue Line, Detective Inspector Derek Grim uses the phrase "fannying about" very often. I am not sure if using the phrase "fannying about" is more rude than saying "don't waste time". Should this phrase always be avoided? – Sumit Sep 8 '14 at 4:52
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    OK, "fannying about" (note the letter -Y missing in your post) would be a lot less ruder than fanny, but it is still slang, and if the context is inappropriate, fannying about might not be understood by everyone or considered highly inappropriate. The negative connotations of fanny have probably softened over the years, but it still has some shock value (you heard the expression being used in a British sitcom). – Mari-Lou A Sep 8 '14 at 4:59
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    I'd say fannying about, on a scale between mucking about and fucking about, would be nearer to fucking about than dicking about would be. Not the sort of thing to say in a job interview, but OK in the pub as long as you are friends with the person you say it to, otherwise you may spend some time fannying about in an A&E ward. They all still fall short of cunting about though. – Frank Sep 8 '14 at 6:05
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    The phrase "fannying about" is not offensive and can be used without concern. As Sumit says, there is a British sitcom in where the word is used extensively which would give you a good idea of the kind of sentences you can construct. To give you a useless example, as soon as I've added this comment I'm going to loudly say "Time to stop fannying about and get on with some work" then go get a coffee. – Dave M Sep 8 '14 at 8:43

fanny is defined in Collins English Dictionary at CollinsDictionary.com as

(taboo, British) the female genitals

(mainly US & Canadian) the buttocks

It is used frequently to describe someone in a not very polite manner

You are a fanny! (often as complete and utter fanny)

'Taboo' seems a little strong for fanny as it can be used in a relatively friendly manner, particularly in the phrase fannying about. Collins notes that dick used to be 'taboo' but no longer is. Dick can also be used in the same way: dicking about.

Using fanny as a verb, still carries all the baggage and you need to be cautious with your usage.

Amongst friends stop fannying about means no more than stop messing about, however when used aggressively the meaning goes back to the original and becomes stop messing about, you fanny. Calling someone a fanny aggressively is only slightly less offensive than calling them a cunt.

You can use it self-referentially of course.

Sorry I'm late, I had to fanny about with my bike to get it started

but you wouldn't use that as an apology for arriving late for an interview.

Given the opportunity for someone to misunderstand the intention of the word fanny in fannying about I would avoid it in all situations where you are talking to people you do not know very well. It's generally OK with your friends (if they accept it) but it would not be the sort of phrase you'd use in a more formal setting.

Do bear in mind that both Dick and Fanny are still fairly common names in the UK, so if you hear someone using the word dick or fanny you need to comprehend what they mean. It's quite possible to say "I met a Dick/Fanny last night" meaning "I met someone, whose name is Dick/Fanny, last night" or it could mean "I met someone, who I really didn't like, last night"

Other 'messing aboutery' terms, listed in the order of what I consider least likely to offend to most likely to offend, the first three being not offensive at all.

  • fooling about
  • messing about
  • mucking about
  • bumming about[i]
  • farting about (fart : passing wind from the anus)
  • dicking about
  • arsing about (arse : bottom/anus)
  • fannying about
  • fucking about
  • cunting about[ii]

[i] bumming about is the US meaning of bum (vagrant, loafer, (UK:tramp)) and means much the same - 'hanging about doing nothing much'.

[ii] rarely used in a friendly way.

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    @Mari-LouA Because fanny is vulgar. dick is slang for penis, fanny is slang for female genitals. fannying about and dicking about are the same thing and both are vulgar both mean acting like a dick/fanny. Neither are synonyms for messing, mucking, fooling they are vulgar terms. They are not terms to be used lightly. – Frank Sep 8 '14 at 8:19
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    @Mari-LouA Sumit did say he understood fanny to mean mess around and waste time, dick is used in the same way. I thought it would be helpful to show that not only is fannying not quite what he thought, but dicking is also pretty much the same thing. However, if you feel that the inclusion of dick was too much, I'll go along with that. – Frank Sep 8 '14 at 8:30
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    Also: someone who is a Fanny is a coward. Stop being such a fanny. Also Fanny is not a common name in the UK any more, not for the under 60s anyway. – user53561 Sep 8 '14 at 11:37
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    +farting about - has overtones of ineffectuality. – android.weasel Sep 8 '14 at 12:42
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    As a native British speaker, calling somebody a fanny is not remotely as offensive as calling them a cunt. "Cunt", at the moment, is about the most offensive word in the English language. Calling somebody a fanny isn't much more offensive or loaded than calling them an idiot or a dick; calling them a cunt is a highly offensive statement, implying deep loathing and derision. – David Richerby Sep 8 '14 at 12:51

The verb fannying (about) is intransitive. As such it is not used in a sentence like "Don't waste my time," where the verb is transitive.

fanny on ODO:

verb (fannies, fannying, fannied)
[no object] (fanny about (or around)) British informal
Mess around and waste time:
they were fannying about in the street

Compare, loafing, a similar intransitive verb.

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The term 'fanny about' has nothing to do with female genitals but instead comes from naval slang.


'Sweet Fanny Adams' aka 'Sweet FA' and thus 'fanny about' means to do nothing.

This is why on your scale of rudeness it is not anywhere near as vulgar as 'dicking about' because while fanny can refer to genitalia in this instance it is not.

The word fanny on its own can be considerably more rude, or it could refer to a person's name. Context is everything.

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  • While the etymology may be different, it has certainly merged into a single idea and in formal context would certainly be taken as rude regardless. – paqogomez Sep 8 '14 at 14:55
  • No it hasn't, at least in England there is a significant difference in where the terms can be used. Hence why it can be used in an early evening sitcom that goes out to families. I am an English, native English speaker so I understand the subtlety rather than simply comment on it as others have clearly done. – JamesRyan Sep 8 '14 at 15:08
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    I agree that "fanny about" isn't particularly offensive but your reasoning doesn't work. Most people will be exactly as offended by "fanny about" as by "fanny" and will neither known nor care about the etymology of the situation. – David Richerby Sep 8 '14 at 16:20
  • only the sort of people who would be offended by the word cockpit! It is someone's name, you can't declare a name to be arbitrarily offensive. – JamesRyan Sep 8 '14 at 18:26
  • @JamesRyan - the Wikipedia article you linked to is certainly very interesting: I hadn't heard this explanation of the original of the term "Sweet F.A.". It may well be the true origin - but I don't see any explicit confirmation that "fanny about" is derived from "Sweet Fanny Adams". – AAT Sep 8 '14 at 22:23

It can only really be used in that context followed by about:

fanny about

fannying about

Here's an example


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