• (written as Panjandrum)
    A nonsense character created by Samuel Foote, theso-called 'English Aristophanes', as part of a challenge to testthe memory of the actor Charles Macklin. In 1755 Foote respondedto a boast by Macklin that he could remember any speech perfectlyafter hearing it once by composing a piece beginning: "So shewent into the garden to cut a cabbage leaf to make an apple pie; andat the same time a great she-bear, coming up the street, pops itshead into the shop - What! no soap? So he died and she veryimpudently married the barber; and there were present the Picninnies,and the Joblillies, and the Garyalies, and the grand Panjandrum himself,with the little round button at top..." UnsurprisinglyMacklin had to concede defeat; indeed, it is said that he was so indignantat the nonsense that he refused to repeat a word of it. The phrases"no soap" - meaning 'not a hope!' - and "the grand Panjandrum" - meaning any self-importantor puffed-up person - have since entered the language.

Origin & History of “panjandrum”

Panjandrum is an invented word, coined in 1755 by the English actor and playwright Samuel Foote (1720–1777) to test the memory of the actor Charles Macklin, who claimed to be able to memorize and repeat anything said to him (it was one of several inventions in the same vein that Foote put to him: ‘And there were present the Picninnies, and the Joblillies, and the Garyulies, and the grand Panjandrum himself, with the little round button at top’). It does not seem to have been taken up as a general comical term for a ‘pompous high-ranking person’ until the 19th century.