For those of you of a sensitive disposition, this post contains a fair bit of sweary stuff; so if you re easily offended (1) what are you doing here and (2) look away now
Charli Mills prompt this week references a tragic tale from the shores of Lake Superior.
July 19, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about Fannie Hooe. Although she is a legend in the Kewenaw, feel free to go where the prompt leads.
‘You know sweet FA, Logon.’
‘You know what FA means?’
‘FA? Eff All.’
‘Nope, it’s Fanny Adams, an eight year old murdered and dismembered in the 1860s.’
‘You’re a mine of irrelevancies. Why’s a dead girl come to mean Eff All?’
‘Navy slang. A euphemism. Navy introduced tinned meat. Sailors loathed it and said it must be the dead girl. Sweet Fanny Adams became sweet FA which then became another way of saying eff all.’
‘Like that Hungarian director… he said, ‘you think I know f**k nothing when I really know f**k all.’
‘You always lower the tone, Morgan.’
It’s funny, isn’t it, how little memories float to the surface when you read a story from thousands of miles away and wonder at the coincidence. Charli tells the story of Fannie Hooe, lost on the shores of Lake Superior. A girl lost. I remember my mother telling me about ‘sweet’ Fanny Adams, a Victorian girl brutally murdered by a solicitor’s clerk in 1860s Hampshire. The only links are the missing females and the name. And it’s the name that sticks, that brings the threads together. Abductions, murders, dismemberment are, sadly, two a penny while the name is unusual enough to resonate. Maybe that says more about me.
FA, Fannie Adams or Fuck All. A simplistic piece of naval slang that has taken hold. We still hear people saying they ‘know sweet FA’ and probably have no idea where it comes from.
And again my mind makes a link. This time to one of the funniest autobiographies I ever read by the English actor David Niven.
In the Moon’s A Balloon he tells of his time filming the Charge of The Light Brigade with Errol Flynn directed by a Hungarian. In one scene the British forces have unsuccessfully charged and, to emphasize the failure a troop of riderless horse are to be filming galloping away, their riders all slain. The Director looks at the scene: all is set.
‘Bring on the empty horses!’ he cries at which Niven and Flynn and others corpse at his poor English. They have been taking the mickey for weeks. Exasperated the director faces the actors, fury distorting his features. ‘You… you think I know fuck nothing, when really I know fuck all.’
Ah, that magical use of the ‘F’ word. Such a clever little word, so adaptable. Is there a more useful word in English? You think not?