Word of the Day

Tuesday, October 16, 2001

panjandrum

\pan-JAN-druhm\ , noun;
1.
An important personage or pretentious official.
Quotes:
Needless to say, when governors and ministers and the panjandrums of British public life asked these appointed advisers and those from whose ranks they were largely drawn for their views on democratic development, they gave the answers that might have been expected.
-- Christopher Patten, East and West
And so I have appointed myself the chairman, High Panjandrum, Grand Inquisitor -- and sole member -- of a grievance committee of my own making.
-- Alan K. Simpson, Right in the Old Gazoo
Origin:
Panjandrum was coined by Samuel Foote (1720-1777) in a piece of nonsense writing:
So she went into the garden to cut a cabbage-leaf to make an apple-pie; and at the same time a great she-bear, coming up the street, pops its head into the shop. "What! No soap?" So he died, and she very imprudently married the barber: and there were present the Picninnies, and the Joblillies, and the Garyulies, and the grand Panjandrum himself, with the little round button at top, and they all fell to playing the game of catch-as-catch-can till the gunpowder ran out at the heels of their boots.
It was composed on the spot to challenge actor Charles Macklin's claim that he could memorize anything. Macklin is said to have refused to repeat a word of it.
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