"If nothing sticks to Teflon, how does Teflon stick to the pan?” is a standard joke on many Internet websites. “How do they make Teflon stick to the pan?” has been cited in print since at least March 1979. “What makes Teflon stick to the pan?” was credited to the comedian Gallagher in February 1980. Although Gallagher frequently used the line in his comedy act, credit is often incorrectly given to the comedian George Carlin.
A technical answer to the old jocular question was given on the website io9 on August 21, 2012.
Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) is a synthetic fluoropolymer of tetrafluoroethylene that finds numerous applications. The most well known brand name of PTFE is Teflon by DuPont Co.
PTFE is a fluorocarbon solid, as it is a high-molecular-weight compound consisting wholly of carbon and fluorine. PTFE is hydrophobic: neither water nor water-containing substances wet PTFE, as fluorocarbons demonstrate mitigated London dispersion forces due to the high electronegativity of fluorine. PTFE has one of the lowest coefficients of friction against any solid.
PTFE is used as a non-stick coating for pans and other cookware. It is very non-reactive, partly because of the strength of carbon–fluorine bonds, and so it is often used in containers and pipework for reactive and corrosive chemicals. Where used as a lubricant, PTFE reduces friction, wear, and energy consumption of machinery.
It is commonly believed that Teflon, like velcro, is a spin-off product from the NASA space projects. However, that is not so, even though both products have been used by NASA.
23 March 1979, Omaha (NE) World-Herald, “Mind a Few Bogglers?” by Jeff Jordan, pg. 8, col. 1:
How do they make Teflon stick to the pan?
Google News Archive
29 February 1980, Calgary (Alberta) Herald, “Gallagher shuns trivial comedy” by Bryan Robinette, TV Times, pg. 67, col. 1:
Gallagher’s high energy and penchants for ridiculous questions (what makes Teflon stick to the pan?) made comedy a natural outlet and he left in 1975 to find the answer.
Google News Archive
10 May 1981, The Blade (Toledo, OH), “From Comic Gallagher...: The Trademark Is ‘Sledge-O-Matic’” by Davies, pg. F1, col. 1:
What makes Teflon stick to the pan?”
The Directory of Humor Magazines and Humor Organizations in America (and Canada)
Edited by Glenn C. Ellenbogen
New York, NY: Wry-Bred Press
With Reagan as the Teflon President, George Carlin was right when he asked, “What makes Teflon stick to the pan?”
June 1994, The Rotarian, pg. 64, col. 1:
Did you ever wonder...
If nothing sticks to Teflon, how do they make Teflon stick to the pan?
-- J. D. Schmidt, Rotarian
Arlington, New York, U.S.A.
The funniest stuff on the Internet
By Doug Mayer
Kansas City, MO: Andrews and McMeel
If nothing ever sticks to Teflon, how do they make Teflon stick to the pan?
The Mammoth Book of Humor
By Geoff Tibballs
New York, NY: Carroll & Graf Publishers
lf nothing sticks to Teflon, how does Teflon stick to the pan?
AUG 21, 2012 1:00 PM
The scientific quest behind a very old joke
It’s an old joke: How does the teflon stick to the pan? It turns out that the answer involves a relatively long scientific quest to find a smooth substance that can stand the test of time.
When you run your fingers over nonstick pans, they have that ultra-smooth plasticky feel that lets you know why pancakes slide away from them as if they’re hostages making a break for freedom. Press your fingers a little harder, and you’ll find one of the answers to that oldest of jokes, “What makes the teflon stick to the pan.” The teflon is sleek, but underneath you feel a nubbly (that’s a scientific term) surface that’s far more rough than regular metal pans. That’s teflon history right there, because the first thing that got teflon to stick to any pan was a rough, pitted surface.
Word Mark TEFLON
Goods and Services IC 017. US 001. G & S: SYNTHETIC RESINOUS FLUORINE-CONTAINING POLYMERS IN THE FORM OF MOLDING AND EXTRUDING COMPOSITIONS, FABRICATED SHAPES- NAMELY, SHEETS, [ RODS ] TUBES, TAPE AND FILAMENTS [-SOLUTIONS, ] AND EMULSIONS. FIRST USE: 19441009. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19441009
Mark Drawing Code (1) TYPED DRAWING
Serial Number 71479666
Filing Date February 10, 1945
Current Basis 1A
Original Filing Basis 1A
Registration Number 0418698
Registration Date January 8, 1946
Owner (REGISTRANT) E.I. DU PONT DE NEMOURS AND COMPANY CORPORATION DELAWARE 1007 Market Street WILMINGTON DELAWARE 19898
Type of Mark TRADEMARK
Affidavit Text SECT 12C. SECT 15. SECTION 8(10-YR) 20060628.
Renewal 3RD RENEWAL 20060628
Live/Dead Indicator LIVE
New York City • Food/Drink • (1) Comments • Sunday, August 26, 2012 • Permalink
this one is a funny joke. I had a good laugh and read. I know that its the usual joke but its really funny. I’m happy you shared this.