#atozchallenge: Panjandrum

Dave, from Leap of Dave (whose blog you absolutely must follow because it’s just so damn good) suggested perjury as a word I could use for the letter P. And that was a great suggestion, but as I was lying on a hospital bed yesterday (more to come on that), I remembered this word and thought "Sorry Dave, I just have to use mine!"

A panjandrum is an important, or (more likely) a self-important person, according to The Free Dictionary. It also tells us that it’s a word for "a pompous self-important official or person of rank," or "a self-important or pretentious official." The word was created by the British actor Samuel Foote for a 1755 nonsense lecture…

When he found himself out of work in November 1754, Foote rented the Haymarket theatre and began to stage mock lectures. Satirizing Charles Macklin’s newly opened school of oratory, these lectures created a sort of theatrical war, especially when Macklin began to appear at the lectures himself. At one particular lecture, Foote extemporized a piece of nonsense prose to test Macklin’s assertion that he could memorise any text at a single reading.

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.∂

This introduced the nonsense term “The Grand Panjandrum” into the English language and the name was adopted for the Panjandrum or Great Panjandrum, an experimental World War II-era explosive device.

Samuel Foote (Public Domain)

To whom would you apply this epithet? Do you think you will start throwing the term panjandrum around in your writing?

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