Posted by Kitty on March 28, 2003

In Reply to: Dead-pan posted by S. on March 28, 2003

: Any idea as to the etymology of the word "dead-pan"? Thanks in advance for any information.

Mwrriam Webster Dictionary (on-line):
Main Entry: 1dead·pan
Pronunciation: 'ded-"pan
Function: adjective
Date: circa 1928
: marked by an impassive matter-of-fact manner, style, or expression
- deadpan adverb

The following is part of an entry on


"Deadpan" does indeed have a theatrical origin, first appearing in the New York Times in 1928 (in an article citing actor Buster Keaton as the quintessential "dead-pan" comic) and was frequently used in the show-business daily Variety around that time. The key to "deadpan" is the use of "pan" as theatrical slang for "the face" (reflecting the use of "pan" to mean "skull," found as early as 1330). So "deadpan" is simply another way of saying "expressionless face."

*end snip*