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The word panhandle has two distinct meanings, as a noun or as a verb. We will examine the very different definitions of the word panhandle, where they came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

When panhandle is used as a noun, it refers to a geographic feature, a narrow strip of land that is part of the boundaries of a state in the United States. Nine states of the United States are considered to have panhandles: Connecticut, Alaska, Nebraska, Maryland, Idaho, Oklahoma, Florida, Texas and West Virginia, which has two panhandles. The Florida Panhandle is the part of Florida that contains Panama City Beach, Pensacola and Tallahassee. Beaches abound in this northwest Florida area, as it is a coastal area on the Gulf of Mexico. The Florida Panhandle is a getaway destination, family friendly home rentals are available at the seashore, as well as beachfront luxury vacation accommodations. Fresh seafood, surf and white sand beaches make this Emerald Coast scenic area a pleasant place to watch the sunset. In contrast, the Texas Panhandle is a harsh, underpopulated region in North Texas, encompassing cities such as Amarillo, Lubbock. and the small town of Shamrock, Texas. The area is ecologically suited to be a prairie. When pioneers moved to the area in the 1800s, they broke up the grassland, disrupting the delicate ecological balance. Due to the farming practices of the early settlers, the area became devastated with drought, and the Dust Bowl ravaged the area in the 1930s. Today, ranching and oil production are the main commerce of the Texas Panhandle and the Oklahoma Panhandle, which abuts Texas. Palo Duro Canyon is a state park and wildlife area with many hiking trails, campsites and picnicking areas. The Panhandle Plains Historical Museum in Canyon, Texas tells the story. The first use of the word panhandle to describe a narrow strip of land attached to a state occurred in the 1840s, describing a portion of land in Virginia that eventually became part of West Virginia.

When panhandle is used as a verb, it means to beg for money. Panhandle, used in this sense, also originated in the United States. The exact etymology of the term panhandle is unknown. It may come from beggars literally using pans in order to solicit money from passersby, holding the pan by the handle. Some believe that the term is describing the metaphor of a human holding out his hand for money, the hand being the “pan” and the arm being the “panhandle”. The word panhandle meaning to beg for money first appeared in the 1880s. Panhandle is an intransitive verb, which is a verb that does not take an object. Related words are panhandles, panhandled, panhandling, panhandler.


Wildlife officials say the scallop population is rebounding following a bout of red tide in Gulf of Mexico off Florida’s Panhandle.  (US News & World Report)

During his marathon tour of the Panhandle’s high schools, Wendler would sometimes tell students not to apply to West Texas A&M if it wasn’t financially prudent, adding that he would rather students go to community college and transfer to West Texas A&M with less debt than apply to increase the number of applicants. (The Texas Tribune)

Laws specifically barring panhandlers have been thrown out by courts across the country, on grounds that they violate First Amendment rights to free expression. (The Kansas City Star)

But since the ordinance was enforced between September and December 2015, Springfield panhandlers Don Norton, Karen Otterson and Jessica Zenquis can recoup nominal damages and attorney’s fees, Judge Richard Mills wrote in an opinion issued Friday. (The State Journal-Register)