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Pan Pan!

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Skip, a sailing enthusiast from Gainesville, Florida, has been pondering radio protocols, such as the distress signal mayday!, and sécurité, which announces any of various warnings. There’s also pan-pan, repeated three times, a call that indicates urgency, but not distress — no immediate danger to anyone, but a cause for concern, such as being lost, changing a route, or in the case of aircraft, low fuel or an altitude change. That pan is different from other pans in English. The pan that holds the gunpowder on a flintlock rifle is part of the expression flash in the pan, which refers to an instance where the powder ignites but the gun doesn’t fire. If you pan a movie by criticizing it, you’re metaphorically putting it on the pan and roasting it. If you pan with a movie camera, moving from one object to another, you’re taking a panoramic shot, panoramic derving from Greek words that mean “all seen.” Panic, on the other hand, derives from the name of the Greek god Pan, who traipsed around woodlands and fields, making mysterious noises that caused irrational fears. In French, en panne means “out of order” or “malfunctioning,” a panne in the 16th century being part of a sail, later giving rise to the term regarding ships having problems, and later anything in distress, and the modern French sense of en panne involving any kind of breakdown. This is part of a complete episode.

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