by Teri Foster | English language

Let's see how it pans out.

Not a food blog!

Writing is fun but it can get tricky with all the unusual words and phrases in English that we use every day without giving them a second thought. No wonder those new to the language often struggle.

Take the phrase above. How many times have you used these words? Chances are you have probably used them in the last week. You know what they mean. Don’t you?

Sure you do.

When starting a new project, new relationship or fashion trend we might say ‘Let’s see how things pan out before we decide.’ In other words, let’s see how things go work out or progress.

But what a strange expression! Where did it come from and was the original meaning the same as now?

Apparently when early prospectors panned for gold they would swirl a mix of soil and water around the pan. Because Gold is very dense, with a little skill the pan could be swirled at just the right speed to allow the gold to settle to the bottom of the pan, while the dirt and low-density particles would wash over the side.

This would continue until there was nothing left but gravel - and maybe a little speck of gold if it panned out!

Viola! A new expression is born.

Watch this blog for more interesting facts about the origin of English words. (which often aren't English at all! Would you believe?)Teri from Words That Wins loves words and writing!


English language musings