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Beans, Beans, Good for the Heart. . .

August 9, 2012

Driving to work this morning the idiom “hill of beans” suddenly popped into my mind. Out of nowhere, boom, there it was. Hill of beans. And I don’t know why. I haven’t eaten beans recently and I have no recipe plans calling for beans in the foreseeable future and I avoid hills as much as possible ever since that unfortunate incident when I was about 15 and tried riding my bicycle “no hands” down a steep hill with no path and wound up falling and sliding on my belly over the rocks and twigs and shrubs. Riding “no hands” seemed to be the big challenge back then but it’s probably meaningless now. Anyway, there it was – Hill of Beans – in my head and calling out to me from wherever idioms go when they’re not being idiomatic; like The Island of Lost or Frequently Unused and Borderline Forgotten Idioms. Then I thought it might be fun to try and work “hill of beans” into conversation today. Fun because no one much uses the phrase and fun because, well, I guess fun is relative, so the fact that I think saying “hill of beans” in conversation might be fun is really irrelevant aside from telling you where I’m falling on the fun continuum these days.

Humphrey Bogart said “hill of beans” in Casablanca. And you know when Humphrey Bogart says something that it means something and that it’s meant to be said. I’d share the movie clip here for you but the videos I saw on Youtube were too spoilerish and I don’t want to risk spoiling anything for anyone reading this who hasn’t seen the movie. What Bogart said to Bergman – and this is so far out of context that it won’t spoil anything for you if you haven’t seen the movie – was, “Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”

Have you ever seen Casablanca? Thoughts? It’s one of my favorite movies and one I could watch over and over again. Definitely one of the five I’d bring to a desert island with me. The clip below is a great scene from the movie and it doesn’t spoil anything. I almost didn’t post it because I don’t like France or the French, I mean, we’re not supposed to like the French, right? You know, Iraq 2003? That whole “Freedom Fries” and “Freedom Toast” thing? That’s all still going on, right? Anyway, I can’t help but get a chill whenever I see this scene.

So, back to “hill of beans”. I’ve now reached the point where I’ve thought about “hill of beans” too much and I can’t think about it anymore. Sort of like how, if you repeat a common word enough times, it starts to sound funny.  That’s what’s happened to “hill of beans”. Now it sounds like “Halloween” or “Heloise” or “Yellow beans” or “Hella beans” or like someone with a really bad head cold chanting the first name of the U.S. Secretary of State. I’m still going to try and work “hill of beans” into conversation though, I just can’t talk about it any more.

If you manage to work “hill of beans” (or “Heloise”) into conversation today, please stop back and tell me how you managed it and if the other person reacted.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Word Nerd permalink
    August 9, 2012 5:52 am

    Thank you. You’ve given me a goal for the day. I’ll report back.


  2. Word Nerd permalink
    August 11, 2012 10:19 am

    Done! I was at Jo-Ann Fabric, stocking up on stuff no one really needs, when I worked it in. The checker announced my total and as I handed over a fistful of money, I said, “And all that stuff won’t amount to a fistful of beans.”

    She chuckled and said, “But it sure is fun.”

    The lady was about my age. Had I gone to the next line over where the cashier was in her early twenties, I’m guessing she would have thought I was just old and rambling nonsense.


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