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Full of beans
Posted: 03 December 2015 11:20 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Does anyone know when, where and why the phrase “full of beans” originated?  I refer to the phrase with the sense “extremely lively”, not to later interpretations. Somewhere at the back of my mind (dunno why) is the idea that it was originally applied to a skittish horse. I did an Internet search (lionello-style, and not necessarily efficient) and found no guidance. Rally round, colleagues!

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Posted: 03 December 2015 11:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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In Midsummer Night’s Dream Puck describes playing a prank on a “fat and bean-fed horse” by pretending to be a filly.  The implication would be more “energetic” than “skittish”.  Beans would be more calorically dense (and rich in protein) than typical horse fodder, I suppose.

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Posted: 03 December 2015 02:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Green’s Dictionary of Slang and Hotten’s Slang Dictionary (1874) say “originally stable slang.”

The earliest cite in the OED is:

R. S. Surtees Handley Cross II. vii. 199 ‘Ounds, ‘osses, and men, are in a glorious state of excitement! Full o’ beans and benevolence!

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Posted: 03 December 2015 05:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Horse beans is one of the common names for fava beans, a crop that is one of the oldest cultivated plants in history. Despite the name, they’re actually in the pea family and nutrition wise, they definitely kick ass on alfalfa or hay, but are way behind oats, which is the common high nutrition feed for horses these days… in my limited experience.

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Posted: 04 December 2015 02:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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an’ the hosses is so precious full o’ beans, they von’t stand for nobody nor nothin’. Brick valls u’dn’t stop ‘em

from Google Books - “Pickwick Abroad” 1837 by George W M Reynolds, written in the style of Charles Dickens. In his day Reynolds was very popular and outsold Dickens, according to Wikipedia.

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Posted: 04 December 2015 03:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Thanks, all. Putting all your suggestions together, one gets a fairly clear picture. “Fava beans” are in rightpondia, I think, usually called “broad beans” (Spanish: habas; in the ME, pul or ful). The name “horse beans”—evidently, a high-energy fodder—clinches it; seems my hunch wasn’t too far wrong. I had a fleeting notion that the well-known anemogenic properties of legumes might be part of the story, but it looks as though I was wrong.

Q. What’s the difference between a knight’s charger and a brewer’s drayhorse?

A. A knight’s charger darts into the fray.

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Posted: 04 December 2015 06:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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This thread gives me a chance to quote a Victorian knee-slapper that I had to look up because the punch line was used in a Trollope novel:

What happened to the ostler and the priest? I believe it is an old story, but never mind, it is in point. An ostler of the Popish persuasion annually paid two shillings and threepence halfpenny to his priest to confess and whitewash him at Easter. Down on his knees did he lay open his heart to the padre, and tell every thing he had done amiss during the preceding year. “Father,” says Paddy, “I water the whisky, I take a quartern out of every peck of oats, and I charge four pence for horsekeeping, and give my master but threepence.” “Tell me,” says the padre, “do you never grease the horses’ teeth to prevent their eating the beans?” “Never, your reverence, never!” cries Paddy with tears in his eyes. “Good boy, get up wid ye then,” says the padre; “tip us the thirteeners and you are clean as a whistle for the next twelve months.”

Those twelve months over, back comes the priest. The same mummery goes on; the same kneeling down and confessing to the absolving padre, whose infallible power of absolution is best tested by the fact that the infallible head of the church himself, who can excommunicate and absolve every Roman Catholic in the world, confesses to his own particular chaplain, and then we have the ostler at it again; the same questions are repeated, the same admissions made, till at last Dominie reiterates his inquiry, “Have you not greased the horses’ teeth to prevent their eating the beans?” Different from that of the preceding year was the answer to this: “Yes, your reverence, I have.” “How!” exclaims Doctor O’Doddipole; “what! an accession of crime as you draw nearer the grave! How comes this! Last year you told me you had never done such a thing; how happens it that this year you have!” “Plase your reverence,” says the ostler, “I’d never have had sich a thought in my head if your reverence hadn’t been kind enough to put it there.”

Interesting linguistic note: a thirteener is (per OED) “The name formerly current in Ireland for a silver shilling, as being worth thirteen pence of Irish copper currency. “

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Posted: 04 December 2015 08:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Wandering a bit afield here (and stepping cautiously because previous threads about horses’ teeth have gotten contentious) but how would greasing the horses’ teeth prevent them eating beans?

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Posted: 04 December 2015 09:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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1861 Horse Care

320. FOOD AND STARVATION
How to make a horse stand by his food and starve to death. Grease the front teeth and roof of the mouth with common beef-tallow, and he will not eat until you wash it out; this, in conjunction with the above, will consummate a complete founder.

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Posted: 04 December 2015 10:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Thanks, but I’m still mystified as to how it works.

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Posted: 04 December 2015 12:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I know that horses refusing to eat due to mouth issues is a very common problem. Soreness from an improper bit will put them off and I knew of a horse that refused to eat for several days because a bee stung his lip. My guess would be that the horse simply hates the taste/feel of the lard and won’t eat until it’s gone. It doesn’t take much to freak out a horse.

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Posted: 04 December 2015 12:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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languagehat - 04 December 2015 06:44 AM

“How!” exclaims Doctor O’Doddipole; “what! an accession of crime as you draw nearer the grave!

I couldn’t place where I’d come across the esteemed Dr Doddipol before. Perhaps a character in early Elizabethan drama, Ralph Roister Doister or Gammer Gurton’s Needle? No, not there. It’s a traditional name for a fool, although how old I can’t say. (OED is mum). Then I saw the play title The Wisdom of Dr Doddipol, performed by the Children of Pauls company in 1599/1600, and I realized that’s whence my familiarity sprung, not from reading the play itself but from seeing the title while reading of the Wars of the Theatres.

All is clear. And that is an amusing yarn, although Google attributes it to one of my favourite Victorian humorists, Theodore Hook, in a novel called Gilbert Gurney. (Trollope is one of my blind spots, I’m afraid, I never quite took to the fellow’s novels.)

And I too am curious as to why the taste of beef-tallow should stop a horse eating.

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Posted: 04 December 2015 01:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Possibly it’s the despair of realizing it’s been eating hay and hard corn all its life when it could have had a nice, marbled steak?

[ Edited: 04 December 2015 04:45 PM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 04 December 2015 04:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Hmm, an existential crisis. Our cat gets those from time to time. Either that or trapped wind.

My intensive research (a cursory 2-minute google) indicates that all this beef-tallow stuff goes back to Young’s Demonstrative Translation of Scientific Secrets, or A Collection of Above 500 Useful Receipts on a Variety of Subjects published in Toronto in 1861. All the other sites use the exact wording of this original, if original it be.

So does it work? Anybody with a horse?

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Posted: 04 December 2015 04:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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My intensive research (a cursory 2-minute google) indicates that all this beef-tallow stuff goes back to Young’s Demonstrative Translation of Scientific Secrets, or A Collection of Above 500 Useful Receipts on a Variety of Subjects

Which is in fact what happydog linked to.

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Posted: 04 December 2015 07:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Ah well, it was high time for a brainfart.

My apologies, happydog.

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