Posted by Masakim on March 28, 2003

In Reply to: Dead-pan posted by kitty 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

: *snip*

: "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*

Here are some citations:

_Dead pan_, playing a rôle with expressionless face as, for instance, the works of Buster Keaton. (_New York Times_, March 11, 1928)

They clicked better at the Palace where the intimacy heightened the dead-pan comic's expression. (_Variety_, April 17, 1929)

He practiced a trick used much by moving-picture comedians- the dead pan. No matter how fantastic or excited his speech, he never changed his expression. (Nathanael West, _ Miss Lonelyhearts_, 1933)