Social Question

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

How did the term "panhandler" come to be?

Asked by Captain_Fantasy (11431points) February 27th, 2010

I’ve seen a lot of bums asking for change and none of them were even close to handling a pan in any way.

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5 Answers

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

I know what a panhandler is, grumpy.

grumpyfish's avatar

Nono—There was a pretty good etymology in that link =)

Etymology: back-formation from panhandler, probably from panhandle, noun; from the extended forearm
Date: 1894

Berserker's avatar

Blind homeless dudes in medieval times used to have pots or pans as coin collectors, so when someone threw money into it, it would make noise, and while they were blind they could hear it and knew money was added.
Metal recipients were also better for shaking the coins into and making noise, as a means to beg.

I read that in a Conan novel though, so it’s prolly totally wrong.

morphail's avatar

A panhandle was “A long narrow strip of land projecting from a larger territory”. The metaphorical sense of “panhandle” is attested earlier than the literal sense (that is, the handle of a pan).

“To work the panhandle” meant “to beg”.

1894 Harper’s Weekly 5 May 429/2 ‘Workin’ the pan-handle.’ ‘Eh?’ ‘I mean, are you beggin’?’

(source: OED)

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