Sunday, February 27, 2011
Sense and Sensibility: Nancy or Anne?
Miss Steele, Lucy Steele’s older sister, is quite the funny character, with her constant talk of “beaux” and her very quotable line from the 2008 mini-series: “It just popped out!” ---But what is her first name?
I had thought it was Anne from watching BBC’s 2008 version. But in the book, she is usually called Nancy when she is not referred to as “Miss Steele”. But I found one occurrence where Lucy calls her Anne. Here are two parts of the book:
(Chapter 37, Mrs. Jennings speaking to Elinor) “Well, and so this was kept a great secret, for fear of Mrs. Ferrars, and neither she nor your brother or sister suspected a word of the matter,--till this very morning. Poor Nancy, who, you know, is a well-meaning creature, but no conjurer, popt it all out.”…“The carriage was a the door ready to take my poor cousins away…poor Lucy in such a condition…she could hardly walk; and Nancy, she was almost as bad.”
(Chapter 38 - a letter from Lucy to Elinor) “Poor Anne has much to blame for what she did, but she did it for the best, so I say nothing.”
It quite baffled me, until Miss Laurie from Old-Fashioned Charm commented on this post shortly after I published it, and explained it all. Here is some of what she said:
"Nancy is a nickname for Anne. My favorite name etymology site is BehindTheName.com and they say Nancy is "a medieval diminutive of Annis (a Medieval form of Agnes), though since the 18th century it has been a diminutive of Anne. It is now usually regarded as an independent name." Nicknames like this were in very commonly use during Jane Austen's day (like Elizabeth Bennet being called Lizzy and Eliza). The elder Miss Steele would have been Christened Anne Steele but because she was a country lass from Plymouth her family chose to call her Nancy. My opinions is that if she had been from a higher class family she probably would have been constantly referred to as Anne. Nicknames were also used to distinguish children from family members with the same name (aunts & uncles, parents, cousins, grandparents). "
She also made a very informative post about this on her blog all about names, Name Enthusiast.
Click here to read it.