We all use the expression. Some think it stands for F*** All. It doesn’t, it stands for Fanny Adams. Who I have just discovered was an eight year old who was butchered by Frederick Baker, a 29 year old solicitor’s clerk. It all happened on the 24 August 1867 in Alton, Hampshire. Jane Austen country.
He gave her a coin and then after knocking her out ,cut off her head and dismembered the girls body so that her innards were scattered all over a field. Baker was quickly identified as the suspect and had to be saved from the mob. Despite Baker coming from a family riddled with mental illness, it took the jury fifteen minutes to come to a guilty verdict and Baker swung outside Winchester Jail on Christmas Eve. 5000 turned up to watch.
It was in the age of the sensational penny dreadfuls a very high profile case and the expression Sweet Fanny Adams entered the language two years later.
The Navy issued new rations of tinned mutton. The sailors were so unimpressed that the rumour spread that there was so little meat because what was being served was the remains of Sweet Fanny Adams, something worthless. Navy mess tins or cooking pots are still known as Fannys.