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Pan out

Posted by R. Berg on July 29, 2003

In Reply to: Some phrase plz. posted by James Briggs on July 29, 2003

: : : hi,
: : : could you tell the meaning for the following...?

: : : 1.the man described by neighbors as "such a meek guy"
: : : 2.some bodies were "fished out" of the river.
: : : 3.they fear being "held up to ridicule" if the tip does not "pan out".

: : : thank you for your help.

: : : 1.the man described by neighbors as "such a meek guy." He didn?t cause any trouble, start any fights, etc.

: : (Merriam-Webster online)
: : Main Entry: meek
: : Pronunciation: 'mEk
: : Function: adjective
: : Etymology: Middle English, of Scandinavian origin; akin to Old Norse mjukr gentle; akin to Welsh mwyth soft
: : Date: 13th century
: : 1 : enduring injury with patience and without resentment : MILD
: : 2 : deficient in spirit and courage : SUBMISSIVE
: : 3 : not violent or strong : MODERATE

: : : 2.some bodies were "fished out" of the river. Dead bodies were taken out of the water. (I'm not sure what's used to retrieve bodies ? a grappling hook?)

: : : 3.they fear being "held up to ridicule" if the tip does not "pan out".

: : If the tip or information doesn?t "pan out," yield results (lead to solving the case, resolving the situation, etc.) people will laugh at them or hold them in contempt.

: I'm pretty sure that 'pan out' comes from gold mining. River sediment was often the source of tiny pieces of gold. The sediment was repeatedly washed in a nearly flat pan. Any gold always stayed in the bottom and could be eventually collected - it had 'panned out'

I believe that is the origin. My father mined gold in the 1940s in California. When something sparkles at the bottom of a stream, you take a handful and wash it in a gold pan to see whether the minerals do include gold. If the shiny material doesn't settle in the pan when everything else has been rinsed away, it is likely iron pyrites, "fool's gold." If it does, then you've found a good place to keep panning.

American Heritage Dictionary, "pan":
Transitive verb:
1. To wash (gravel, sand or other sediments) in a pan for precious metal. . . .
Intransitive verb:
1. To wash gravel, sand, or other sediments in a pan. 2. To yield gold as a result of washing in a pan.
--"pan out."Informal. To turn out well; be successful . . .

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