‘pan-loafy’: meaning and origin



The colloquial Scottish adjective pan-loafy, also pan-loafie, means, of a person, manner of speaking, etc.: affectedly refined or cultivated, pretentious. (This word is also used as an adverb.)
—Cf. also the word




Apparently, this usage originated in the fact that a pan-loaf (i.e., a loaf baked in a pan or tin, having a hard, smooth crust), being more expensive than a plain loaf, was considered a sign of affluence.

This is supported by the replies to the following query, published in the Courier and Advertiser (Dundee, Angus, Scotland) of Wednesday 31st December 1947:

Sir,—I have been vainly trying to trace the derivation of the word “panloafy,” meaning high-falutin 1 or pretentious. So far as I can recall it was not used in the Border district where I was brought up, but since coming to Dundee I have met it frequently, always in a humorous context.
None of the speakers has been able to explain where it originated beyond hazarding a guess that it has something to do with a pan loaf! If that is so, how did a pan loaf become the symbol of ambitions above one’s social station?—Yours, &c., Curious.
28th December 1947.

1 The adjective high-falutin means affected, pretentious.

A first reply appeared in the Courier and Advertiser (Dundee, Angus, Scotland) of Friday 2nd January 1948:

Sir,—I hope this will help “Curious” a little. A pan loaf costs more and, according to my palate, tastes better than a common one.
The term “panloafy” can be placed in a long list of left-handed compliments. It is in the same category as “hairsplitter.” To say a person is this latter is to praise him indeed. It needs a very fine instrument to split a hair.
There’s hope for the world. Despite the many institutes of erudition around us I believe we are being educated.—Yours faithfully, Common Loafer.
Broughty Ferry, December 31, 1947.

A second reply was published in the Courier and Advertiser (Dundee, Angus, Scotland) of Monday 5th January 1948:

Sir,—I was interested in the query posed by your correspondent, “Curious.” Like him, I have frequently been amused by the use of the word “panloafy” and, as a Dundonian who has known it since childhood, may I hazard a guess regarding its origin?
“Curious’s” friends are, I believe, correct in thinking the word has a connection with the pan loaf. As a child going my mother’s messages, I knew that there were two kinds of bread—plain and fancy—the latter being either French or pan. These fancy varieties were always a ha’penny dearer than plain bread, and I have the very definite impression that, in a working-class community, anyone regularly buying the fancy bread (apart from special occasions) would be regarded as being bit above herself!
On the other hand, “panloafy” refers more especially to a certain affectation of speech (cf. Glasgow’s “Kelvinsighed” 2), and I wonder if children, who were being taught languages at school and whose conversations in tramcars and other public places are not usually marked with reticence, were regarded by other children as talking “very panloafy”—the word being, by a transference of ideas, associated with “French.”
These, of course, are purely speculative but, for what it is worth, my guess is for the first of the alternatives.—Yours faithfully, Agaricus.
Dundee, January 1, 1948.

2 This is a misspelling of Kelvinside, a noun denoting the supposedly affected and refined accent of the residents of Kelvinside, a residential district of Glasgow.

Michael Munro mentioned another explanation in The Patter: A Guide to current Glasgow usage (Glasgow District Libraries, 1985)—as quoted in Dictionaries of the Scots Language:

pan-loaf … A pan-loaf accent is a posh accent. There are two possible explanations for this usage known to me; the first being that a pan loaf was considered the kind of bread that posh people ate, the second being that pan loaf is rhyming slang for toff as pronounced locally.




The earliest figurative use that I have found of pan-loaf is, with reference to an affectedly refined manner of speaking, from “Rhymes of the Suburbs”, published in the Evening Telegraph and Post (Dundee, Angus, Scotland) of Friday 1st January 1932:

Down Lytton way, down Lytton way,
Life’s “floury” path is ever gay;
They talk “pan-loaf” from infancy,
Down Lytton Way.

The earliest occurrences of the word pan-loafy, also pan-loafie, that I have found are from the column Somebody Told Me, published in The Arbroath Herald and Angus County Advertiser (Arbroath, Angus, Scotland):

1-: Of Friday 31st October 1941:

THAT in a well-known local tea-room a tiny tot—very precocious, accompanied by its fashion-plate mother, met another tiny mite, also accompanied by its musquash-coated and smartly millinered mother. Before the mothers got a chance to greet each other, one wee tot advanced to the other looking down its nose, and in a very pan-loafie voice exclaimed: “Actually—I’ve no time for you!”

2-: Of Friday 6th February 1942:

THAT Letham-born Angus comedian, Will Fyffe 3, convulsed his audience in the Usher Hall, Edinburgh, last Sunday when he reconstructed a couthie conversation between two ladies who met in the bus. Lady No. 1 had removed from Leith Walk to Morningside, and was talking very pan-loafie. Said Lady No. 2—“I hear you have shifted to Morningside. The rates are terrible there aren’t they. “Oh dear no,” replied Lady No. 1—“We may have a moose or two, but daifinitely, we have no raets in Morningside.”

3 Will Fyffe (1885-1947) was a Scottish actor, music-hall entertainer and pantomimist.

3-: Of Friday 13th March 1942:

THAT when the bakers in the town stop baking white bread how shall we describe that Englishy voiced conversation which we have always thought of as “panloafie?” A reader suggests that we might now describe it as “currant bunnie”—but even that will be difficult because dried fruits are also disappearing.

4-: Of Friday 6th August 1943:

THAT there have been quite a few Paisley Buddies on holiday in the town this week. Never for a moment as I heard them talk did I mistake them for Londoners, even though their conversation did veer towards the Kelvinside pan-loafie style at a local tea room.

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