panned by the critics

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panned by the critics

Post by Archived Topic » Sat Dec 04, 2004 7:44 am

I have found that this word usage arose around 1911. I believe it's derived from 'flash in the pan'.
Submitted by Jimmie Whipple (New Braunfels - U.S.A.)
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panned by the critics

Post by Archived Reply » Sat Dec 04, 2004 7:58 am

Jimmie, Scratch ‘flash in the pan’ – it’s unrelated (see posting ‘flash in the pan').

TO PAN: The Apparent parent of this expression is “it didn’t pan out,’ which alludes to panning for gold by American prospectors. In this method of prospecting, a shallow pan was used to scoop up small amount of gravel and sand from a stream. Any gold present settled to the bottom as the gravel and sand were washed away. When gold was found the miners would say that it had PANNED OUT, which became synonymous with success and favorable results. However, when gold wasn’t found after the pan was shaken, miners would say that it hadn’t panned out. Similarly, when any effort, for example a stage play, didn’t pan out, it didn’t succeed. After enough literary critics had said plays or books didn’t pan out, to criticize a production severely, to judge (a performance) to be unsuccessful or inadequate, came to be known as ‘panning it,’ with the verb ‘pan’ first appearing in print in 1911.

The above explanation is the view of the majority of the sources I checked. However, I did find a second explanation, which was that to be ‘panned’ derived from the fact that roasting and frying (a.k.a criticizing severely) was done in a pan.
<1911 “They would open up on Rufus and PAN him to a Whisper.”—‘Chicago Daily News,’ 16 December, page 29/2>

<1927 “Will Shakespeare . . . was PANNED by the critics because he delved into the argot of his day to put it over.”—‘Vanity Fair,’ XXIX. page 134/3>

<1939 “The lurid headline, ‘Famous Woman Explorer PANS Domesticity.’”—‘The Smiler with the Knife’— by N. Blake, v. page78>

<1960 “The idea that critics like PANNING shows is a myth.”—‘Daily Mail,’ 27 April, page 8/8>
(Oxford English Dictionary, Picturesque Expressions by Urdang, Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, Chapman’s Dictionary of American Slang)

Ken G – November 11, 2004
Reply from Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)
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Re: panned by the critics

Post by BigJ » Sun Mar 11, 2018 1:05 am

I too agree that gold panning is NOT the true etymology of the criticism definition. I came here from the line in the Marx Brothers "Horse Feathers" song "I always get my man" sung by Groucho who warns about his retribution for those who "Put me on a pan." If the word to "Pan" someone is used in a negative connotation, the aformentioned gold panning origin would not be perceived as a positive. For example to "Pan Out" is a good thing. It is only in reversing away from the word "Pan" by saying "To NOT Pan Out" that "Pan" is perceived as a bad thing. However, in the case of Groucho's song in "Horse feathers," to put "On the pan" is a bad thing, quite the opposite of the positive use of "Panning Out."

I believe there must be another explanation, such as turning up the heat on a fry pan. Or, perhaps in cooking something that could be of better quality when slow cooking, or grilling, or turning on a spit, but becomes tougher or greasier when quickly frying on a pan?

Unfortunately, this important information, like many of our formerly widely used expressions from our not so long ago past is not clearly defined. I do appreciate having found this forum of people who understand this, but am still baffled daily by those who imprison themselves by losing our language's origins and word etymology.

Re: panned by the critics

Post by tony h » Mon Mar 12, 2018 12:44 pm

I wonder whether "nugget", "struck gold" and "panned" are contemporaneous in origin. They could all seem to have a gold-mining origin describing different outcomes from an activity.
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