A Necessary Warning

Brit-speak: Fanny

Ameri-speak: Hoo-ha

I’ve been putting this post off for reasons that will soon become obvious, but then I saw this advert:

….and I realized that I can no longer avoid the topic.  Yes that’s right, I’m going to grab this cultural faux pas by the tomatoes to make sure that you, dear readers, don’t embarrass yourself in the most mortifying way possible.

My American friend walked into a British church service, scanning the aisles for a free seat.  She hadn’t been in the UK long, but she saw a male friend sitting at the end of the aisle with a free seat on the other side of him, as the service was beginning.  She hunched down and whispered, “Scoot your fanny.”  His head snapped in her direction and with wide eyes, he let out a surprised, “Pardon me?!”  And then she remembered.  In the UK, no “fanny” is NOT a polite word that your grandma typically uses to refer to your hindquarters.   It’s not a rude word, but it is a childish term for your lady part.  THE lady part.   Because most Brits have memories of giggling at the word “fanny” out on the playground, they struggle to say it without feeling a bit giggly well into adulthood.  So next time you’re visiting and you see that middle-aged tourist with that loveable 80’s travel essential hanging from their waist, please don’t call it a fanny pack.  It’s called a bum bag here.  Now that you know, you may want to watch that commercial again to fully appreciate just how hilariously cringe-worthy it is.

But hang on Brits, Americans aren’t the only ones that can make a genitally-related cultural mistake.  Imagine you’re visiting American friends over the summer holidays.  The children have consumed too many Haribo and have gotten a bit rowdy.  They are being loud; they are being obnoxious.  You turn to address their behaviour and exclaim, “What a lot of hoo-ha!”  This probably wouldn’t mean anything to an American over 40,  but in recent years, hoo-ha has become a way to say *whispers* vagina confidently, without actually saying *whispers* vagina.   For instance, they might be around the water cooler at work telling stories about the latest  knicker-less celebrity to get caught out by the paparazzi and say, “The girl needs to lay off the booze, get a little respect and cover up her hoo-ha!”

I feel awkward about spelling all of this out for you, but I hope that it might save you from making the mistakes of those who have gone before you.  Considered yourself suitably warned.


7 thoughts on “A Necessary Warning

  1. Deborah

    So funny, I remember this being the case in Australia as well. Is “rooting” a not nice term in England as well? I remember we were not suppose to say we were “rooting” for a certain team as that word has a whole different meaning over there.

    1. Living Life as an Expat Parent Post author

      I am actually drawing a blank on ‘rooting.’ I don’t think so, but don’t feel confident in that answer. They don’t say it though. They say ‘supporting,’ which I’m assuming is the same in Oz.

  2. Lanna

    When I was doing hair, I learned first hand that English people call it “fringe”, not, “bang”. Wont ever make that mistake again ; )

  3. Tesni

    What a hilarious advert. I do feel slightly sorry for anyone called Fanny, but it tends to be characters in old books, and elderly ladies now a days. I really hope the old ladies don’t know their name has been turned into slang. I didn’t know that hoohah is term for vagina in the States. I use hoohah a lot. I’ll have to remember not to use that across the pond.


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