A reference to this expression appears in Peggy Gilbert, "How Can You Blow a Horn with a Brassiere," Downbeat magazine (April 1938), quoted in its entirety in Jeannie Gayle Pool, Peggy Gilbert & Her All-Girl Band (2008), which describes Downbeat as "the well-known [U.S.] national jazz publication":

Put Women on the Pan

Ha! We admit it, you say. You're absolutely right, but your line is as old as time. You think you have put women on the pan. You have. But it has been done for ages, Father Superior—ever since Eve—and far better than you could ever do it.

  • Hello, Webbie. Please add a link and an attribution to your reference. Aug 3, 2019 at 18:42

3 Answers 3


Collins Dictionary states that the phrase 'put on the pan' is US for:

to criticize severely

So your reference would mean:

You think you have [criticised women severely]. You have. But it has been done for ages, Father Superior—ever since Eve...

Obviously the reference to Eve is the Original Sin, which is often used as an criticism of women.


etymology of on the pan Etymonline and OED

The meaning "criticize severely" is from 1911, probably from the notion in contemporary slang expressions such as on the pan "under reprimand or criticism"

As in:

1967 M. Howard Call me Brick 37 Now that she was on the pan, the saccharine façade was quickly stripped from Miss Bullfinch's face.


‘On the pan’, American English, appeares to come from ‘panned’ as in ‘panned by the critics’ which means ‘criticised’.

Panned, in turn, comes from the gold-rush, where pans were used to separate ‘good from bad’ - ie to separate gold from rocks and sand.

Thus, the critics separate ‘good from bad’ in their reviews - sometimes ‘panning’ a performance or whatever, - separating wheat from chaff - by criticising it.

Another theory that I quite like is that it comes from the idea of roasting someone - in a pan, or ‘panning them’. The idea of ‘roasting’ someone does exist today in the sense of a long-form critical diatribes made at award ceremonies etc.

I can’t help having a smirkle of a feeling that being ‘panned or roasted’ might originate from a saint, Saint Lawrence, who was martyred by being roasted to death on a griddle, and famously cried out half way through ‘turn me over - for I am done on one side!’

Making him my favourite saint - for anyone who can maintain a sense of humour when being striped up like bacon, can’t be all bad, in my view.

Said comment is also something that a playwright might cry, when being roasted or panned by the critics, don’t you think?

I can’t find any evidence that he is indeed the origin, but he is quite well known.


I had an ancient copy of ‘Foxes book of Martyrs’ a thick tome of onionskin paper, full of the deaths of saints, in which St. Lawrence appeared, illustrated on his griddle, if I remember rightly. You can see him at the link above. Appropriately he is the saint to call on, if one is ‘pained’ by anything. So critics, Eve, or women, might like to know that.

Another theory (of mine, I made it up) is that pan could come from ‘pain’. As in ‘she pained him’. Or ‘it pained him to look at it’. See what you think... https://www.etymonline.com/word/pain

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