chapter  10
13 Pages

On Nannas and Nannies

Shortly after I first heard the word I was writing a paper on kinship in England for a seminar and I started to search in written sources for any references.2 I could not remember having come across this usage in any play, novel, or other literary work, so I turned to the dictionaries. The original edition of The New English Dictionary (1888-1928), later called The Oxfard English Dictionary (O.E.D.), failed to list the word at all. However, in the supplement, issued in 1933, it did appear, but with a different meaning, namely, 'a child's form of address to a nurse; hence, a children's nurse', an alternative form of the more familiar nanny, the first use of which is given as occurring in Chambers's Journal for September, 1864. I should add that, like nanna, nanny was also absent from the main dictionary, except as 'elliptical for nanny-goat' and in the compound form of nanny-house (or nanny-shop), which appeared in the New Dictionary ofcant in 1720 and meant bawdy-house.3 In the O.E.D., both these words, nanna and nanny, are tentatively derived from the girl's name Nanny (or Nan, Ann, or Anne).