kicking fanny

Oran Smith, who runs Palmetto Family, a group that lobbies on behalf of Christian conservatives, quoted by Matt Bai in “The Tea Party’s Not-So-Civil War”, NYT Magazine 1/15/12, p. 37:

“I expected by this time for Rick Perry to just be kicking fanny in South Carolina,” Smith told me. “He was going to ride in and lasso South Carolina, and he wasn’t going to be stopped.”

That’s the euphemistic slang idiom kick fanny (for kick ass) — which sounds positively quaint to me in this context, though (if he was quoted correctly) Smith might have been trying to balance political macho with appropriately Christian modesty.

Three relevant idioms here:

(1) verbal kick ass ‘win without contest’

(2) verbal kick s.o.’s ass ‘beat up, harm, punish’

(3) adjective kick-ass ‘really cool, excellent’

Fanny can replace ass in all of these: (1) as in the quote above; (2) as in this 1987 quote from Washington Gov. Cecil Andrus:

… there are “two possible culprits” … “We’ll kick whichever fanny is most appropriate.” (link)

and (3) as in:

Texas Style BBQ and Kick-Fanny Wines for 25 People (link)

Then there are mixtures of the three ass usages above, as in the title of the 2010 action-adventure-comedy movie Kick-Ass (based on the hyper-violent Marvel Comic by Mark Millar), which one review maintained was more like Kick-Fanny.

The slang term fanny is “origin unknown” in OED2, and has divergent senses in AmE and BrE:

1. = backside n. 3 (orig. and chiefly U.S.) [cites from 1928 — Hecht & MacArthur, Front Page — on]

2. The female genitals. (Chiefly British English.) [cites from 1879 — The Pearl — on]

(AmE also has fanny pack — with variant fanny belt — which the OED glosses simply as equivalent to bumbag, using the BrE slang bum ‘backside, buttocks’.)

This is an area ripe for trans-Atlantic misunderstanding and offense.


One Response to “kicking fanny”

  1. This Week’s Language Blog Roundup | Wordnik ~ all the words Says:

    […] defining obscenities, and editorial correspondence and the dictionary. Arnold Zwicky considered the word fanny, “an area ripe for trans-Atlantic misunderstanding and offense,” and the geek voice. […]

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