Old bean

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17 comments on this post.
  1. Victoria:

    I always thought “old bean” was a play on the term human being, which is sometimes playfully mispronounced “human bean”.

  2. Isaac:

    In Hong Kong, it is customary for children to refer to their fathers as “Low Dow” (In Cantonese) which translates directely to “Old Bean” is it possible there is a link between the two terms, given tha

  3. Richard:

    Any American out there keen to expose him- or herself to an onslaught of similarly quaint and aristocratic British English slang should consult P.G. Wodehouse. I recommend ‘The Inimitable Jeeves’ as an introductory text. Wodehouse frequently uses the expression ‘old bean’ as a form of address alongside other inanimate objects such as ‘old top’ and ‘old teapot’. He also uses the word bean to mean head, or brains. One of my favourites, however, is the adjective ‘rum’ and its derivative ‘rummy’ which are used to describe something peculiar, strange or out of the ordinary. In my opinion these are all relics which should be brought back to life in everyday conversation, as they are chock solid with character, which seems to be lacking in the digital age, with its tendency to abbreviate everything to txt spk.
    Pip pip.

  4. robertfitch:

    richard…well put

  5. Missouri Love Company:

    I remember using the expression “Old Bean” with my high school friends because I heard it used in movies. It was fun to call everyone by the first name and add Bean behind it. 20 years later, my friends see me and and call me Tina Bean. It sort of my signature.

  6. karol:

    Minor point. I would suggest that its quintessentialy English not British. And historically English upper class at that.

    Great Britain includes Scotland and Wales and even in bygone days I can’t imagine you would have natives of those two countries using this phrase.

  7. paquita:

    Bean means woman in Gaelic – see http://www.etymonline.com – search origin of QHEEN and this info will show up. Maybe it began as an alternative to an affectionate ‘old girl’.

  8. sheegah:

    You didn’t mean “toot sweet”. The expression you were going for is “toute de suite”.

  9. Wooten Schmitz:

    My husband and I loved the way “old bean” was used in the Hitchcock movie “Suspicion.” We named our wonderful mutt “Old Bean,” and he really was a swell chap. May he rest in peace.

  10. Paladin:

    It was always my understanding (not necessarily correct) that “Old Bean” was used as a form of affectionate address for friends with which one attended school.


  11. Dave:

    My grandfather was in the British Royal Navy in the 1920s. He received several small, silver trophies for different shipboard competitions. One of these was a miniature loving cup – a teardrop shaped cup on a footed stem – with graceful, curved handles that curled up and above the top of the loving cup and down to where they were attached 3/4 of the way down the side of the cup. It is about four inches tall. It has a silver lid, a bit more than an inch in diameter, that had been clamped down to top of the cup by the bending of the handles onto the edges of the lid of the cup. To look at it, you wouldn’t think that the handles were bent, the part of ear-like handles that was attached to the top of the loving cup was pulled slightly towards the center of the lid. It could have been done just by pinching the two handles together. When I discovered this, I managed to open the lid, quite easily, and inside there was a kidney bean. I replaced the lid and adjusted the handles to secure the lid. I always wondered if some Royal Navy tradition was the source of the term “old bean.” found this page googling just that.

  12. Alan:

    V M Yeates in his 1934 novel of WW1 air combat attributes the invention of the phrase ‘old bean’ to one of the characters in his squadron. Though a novel, Yeates served in such circumstances (achieving 6 attributed kills) and his characters are seen as traceable. Whether his claim that the invention of the phrase is true, the book is very much well worth a read, my old tins of fruit!

  13. Mimi:

    Like the above commenter, in cantonese (language of some parts of southern China and in Hong Kong) lo-dow meaning an affectionate term for a man is translated literally to “old bean”. Lo-Dow is used towards husbands and older men. Similar to how wives would refer to their husband as “my old man”. Or a friend might ask “how’s the old man doing”? Being that there is not much history supporting that this term “old bean” came from the English/British maybe it originated from China (possible through the Silk Road)

  14. Autymn D. C.:

    OED says it came from H. G. Wells:

  15. Kevin Hortens:

    When I was a child, as it were, My dearest mother would use this term when I would look or seem down trodden, or sad. It was so very comforting to hear her say these words to me, “That’s my ole bean” and press my head into her ample bosom.
    I don’t think I will ever experience that feeling of comfort again in this existence. Thank you.

  16. admin:

    is joke.

  17. M.bell:

    Being used around the twenties, maybe it came from H.G. Wells story ‘Kipps’.
    The kindly lawyer who grants his inheritance is named Bean, and referred to as old bean.

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