phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Phrases, Sayings and Idioms Home > Discussion Forum

Re: Oscar Wilde's "Fan"

Posted by ESC on January 07, 2009 at 17:41

In Reply to: Re: Oscar Wilde's "Fan" posted by Joe on January 07, 2009 at 17:09:

: : In present-day usage, the word "Fan" has two meanings: a hand-held air-conditioning device; and a supporter (short for "Fanatic"). This leads to a question about Oscar Wilde's play "Lady Windermere's Fan". In the play, Lady W. had one of each type of fan.

: : The question is, did Wilde plan this double-entendre, or is it just a coincidence that developed as the meaning of the word evolved over the last century?

: : The OED cites "fan" first being used in the matter meaning, just about the time Wilde wrote the plan, but it's hard to judge from that how commonplace the usage was.

: Oscar Wilde: John Sloaný - Page 106
: by John Sloan - Literary Criticism - 2003 - 225 pages

: The original title for Lady Windermere's Fan - 'A Good Woman' - was changed at
: the request of George Alexander,
: and:
: The Cambridge Companion to Twentieth-century Irish Dramaý - Page 113
: by Shaun Richards - Performing Arts - 2004 - 287 pages

: This style is signalled most clearly by Lady Windermere's fan itself, ... her
: husband and child and 'the real meaning of that - fatal fan of mine'(42o).

: So I'd say just a coincidence that developed as
: The Imperial Dictionary of the English Language By John Ogilvie does not give in that era "fan" as a fanatic fan, but fan did mean as to excite any passion or emotion and that Wilde would have know. I can only find "fan" as used today to 1903-6. Perhaps one 1899 so who knows but these are all American baseball fan usages.

Here's what I found:

".Fan 'support' is short for fanatic. There is a one-off example of its use in the 17th century, in 'New news from Bedlam' 1682, but the origins of the modern word were in late 19th-century America, where it was used for sports supporters." From "Dictionary of Word Origins: the Histories of More Than 8,000 English-Language Words" by John Ayto (Arcade Publishing, New York, 1990). Page 219. "1896. The word is probably a shortening of 'fanatic' but could be from 'the fancy,' the name given sporty prizefight enthusiasts in the 1880s and 90s.." From "Listening to America" by Stuart Berg Flexner (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1982). Page 39.