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#1115 - 04/04/00 07:46 AM panhandler
jmh Offline

Registered: 03/22/00
Posts: 1981
I understand that the word panhandler is a US term for beggar - or maybe it's more subtle than that. Where does this name come from? Did people used to hold out pans or is it to do with the gold-rush - panning for gold?

I also found out recently that the northern part of Florida is known as the panhandle - I assume because of the shape of the state.

Is there a connection between these two or is it just a co-incidence?

#1116 - 04/26/00 08:28 PM Re: panhandler
Philophile Offline

Registered: 04/26/00
Posts: 9
Loc: Richmond, VA, USA
It seems to be one of those words that might have been coined from a pun or metaphor. Somewhat like the UK radio show "My Word", I'm about to hypothesize an origin. If I'm right about it, I'll be delighted.

Homeless beggars in the US (and, I imagine, elsewhere) sometimes resort to jsut sitting up against a wall holding out whatever vessel -- hat, box, cup, or pan -- might attract spare change from a stream of passers-by. This image is similar enough to a prospector holding a pan in a stream to collect gold that the metaphor stuck.

Such a phenomenon (puns begetting words) is not so uncommon; think of colorful idioms like "stick-in-the-mud", "sticky wicket", or "needle in a haystack". Single-word examples include "spineless". Can anyone come up with any single-word idioms? I can't come up with any others "off the top of my head" (hehe...there's another one)


#1117 - 04/26/00 08:55 PM Re: panhandler
tsuwm Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 04/03/00
Posts: 10538
Loc: this too shall pass
panhandler is one of those slang things whose origin is uncertain, but there is some evidence that it comes from the spanish word for bread, pan, slang for money -- which, at a minimum, all ties together to make a nice coincidence. There seems to be no connection between this and panning for gold or the panhandle shape of several of the states (Idaho, Texas, Oklahoma).


#1118 - 04/27/00 03:13 PM Re: panhandler
jmh Offline

Registered: 03/22/00
Posts: 1981

I'd wondered whether people had ever held out pans but I hadn't thought about pan being Spanish for bread.

Although the word bread was a fashionable word for money in the sixties (probably because it was hip for people to talk as if they came from California, man) I don't hear it used very often here.

I suppose the Spanish link (pan/bread) would be a reason why it didn't travel to the UK - we have relatively little immigration from Spain or South America.

#1119 - 04/27/00 03:48 PM Re: panhandler/"My Word"
AnnaStrophic Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 6511
Loc: lower upstate New York
This is slightly off the subject, but: there is an NPR radio program here in the States called "Says You!," a sort of trivia contest-cum -"fictionary," produced by WGBH in Boston. We got it here for a month, as an experiment; unfortunately our local affiliate decided against running it after that month. It is a wonderful program linguaphiles are sure to enjoy. Check your local listings. I'm still E-mailing our affiliate to resume broadcasting it.



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