beaned, beanie, and baseball

Discuss word origins and meanings.

beaned, beanie, and baseball

Post by JerrySmile » Sat Sep 18, 2010 10:55 am


Someone's asking:
I haven't been able to pin down the origin of the word "beaned," meaning to be hit on the head, usually by a baseball. However, before there was baseball, there was "rounders," an English game that was also called "town ball."

From the website:

"The first recorded baseball contest took place a year later, in 1846. Cartwright and his Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of New York City lost to the New York Baseball Club in a game at the Elysian Fields, in Hoboken, New Jersey."

So by 1866, the old bean was being thrown around, but the words beanball and beaned may have taken a while to appear in print. The further back in history we go, the general thought is the longer terms like this took to be printed. So words may have spoken long before it was printed.

Any ideas?

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Re: Beaned and baseball

Post by Bobinwales » Sat Sep 18, 2010 4:14 pm

Bean means head.

I know that, although I can't prove it! I have tried a few combinations, but nothing is coming up.

When I was a boy and a cricket ball (for instance) hit you on the head, you were "bashed on the bean".

And as far as the "English" game of rounders is concerned, you may be interested in THIS SITE.
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Re: Beaned and baseball

Post by zmjezhd » Sat Sep 18, 2010 4:59 pm

The OED offers this definition of the noun bean:
The head. slang (orig. U.S.). bean ball Baseball, a ball pitched at the batter's head.
Does not seem a stretch to go from bean ball noun to verb and then trucate the later to just plain bean. Earliest citation is 1905.
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Re: Beaned and baseball

Post by trolley » Sat Sep 18, 2010 5:50 pm

I'd be surprised if the origin does not predate baseball. I think the baseball cap evolved from those brimless (or short-brimmed) hats known as beanies. I'm not sure what beanies were called before baseball was invented , but they have been around hundreds of years. Calling the head a bean just seems way too natural to have not occurred to anyone untill about century ago. You should check it out for us, Ken, old bean.
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Re: Beaned and baseball

Post by zmjezhd » Sat Sep 18, 2010 7:05 pm

The OED has "A small close-fitting hat worn off the face.", citations from 1943, and marked as "orig. US." The hat has existed for hundreds of years, but I am not sure how long they have been called beanies. This blog opines (link). But, as you say, I'm sure that Ken will come to the rescue.
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Re: Beaned and baseball

Post by Phil White » Sat Sep 18, 2010 9:28 pm

The earliest citations I can find for the verb are:
"I got a dippy kind of feelin' inside my own headpiece—piece of shell casin' come and beaned me."

"I seen the whole thing myself—it was right after that that I got beaned."
"From Place To Place", Irvin S Cobb, 1913
"And I fairly shoves him over to his table, where Sister Mumford has already split out a new pair of gloves and is beamin' joyous, while Vinton is sittin' there with his chin on his necktie, lookin' like someone had beaned him with a bung-starter."
"The House of Torchy", Sewell Ford, 1917
in came a little tot for to kiss her granny
such a little totty she could scarcely tottle
saying kiss me grandpa kiss your little nanny
but the old man beaned her with a whisky bottle.
"The Haunted Bookshop", Christopher Morley, 1919
From somewhere near two men trotted up with a field stretcher, and upon it Cliff was laid, still unconscious.

"You sure beaned him right," one of them observed, looking up at Johnny with some admiration.
"The Thunder Bird", B. M. Bower, 1919
"Mehit got into trouble yesterday," Ben explained to his mother. "Somebody tried to rob her of her notions and she beaned him with her umbrella."
"In Apple-Blossom Time", Clara Louise Burnham, 1919
"I was with him, and I copped that near-diamond pin of his, and left it there so there wouldn't be any guessing as to who pulled off the job, and then we beat it back to his place to divide--and I beaned him."
"The Further Adventures of Jimmie Dale", Frank L Packard, 1919
"He turned with more interest to a cheery half-column on the activities of a gentleman in Minnesota who, with what seemed to Archie, as he thought of Mr. Daniel Brewster, a good deal of resource and public spirit, had recently beaned his father-in-law with the family meat-axe."
"Indescretions of Archie", P. G. Wodehouse, 1920
"One o' my pals got a headache last week down on the pier from bein' beaned with a sandbag."
"Success", Samuel Hopkins Adams, 1921
I find it odd that of 15 hits in the Gutenberg collection, 8 are from the short period 1913 - 1921. Nothing earlier and not all that much later (although you begin to run into copyrighted material shortly after that). If I may so opine, all of the above clutch of citations seem to be self-consciously rendering street slang.
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Re: Beaned and baseball

Post by Ken Greenwald » Sun Sep 19, 2010 4:54 am

Gentlemen, Just did a sweep of my sources and came up with very little new on BEAN and BEAN BALL, and what I did come up with seems to have further muddied the waters. The two quotes I was able to find (see below) contain the verb form which predates both the OED's noun as well as verb first in print dates for BEAN. The first is from the 1885 and the second from 1894:
<1885 “Sometimes, however, the sense is fairly clear and picturesquely expressed: ' Fugitive, on shooting jag, beaned with bullet . . . is a pretty vivid short description of an affray with revolvers ending in the death of its originator.”—Cornhill Magazine, New Series, Vol. 1, page 480>

<1894 “. . .but a professor should be made to come out of his pulpit, . . . look his class squarely in the face and talk! If he can't do that he ought to be beaned or pith-balled, or a ‘strike’ inaugurated against his teaching as was done recently in a Chicago college.”—The American Homoeopathist, Vol. 20, page 56> [[professor should come out from behind his lectern, stop reading from his prepared notes, and speak directly to his students]]
The OED listing which Jim (a.k.a. zmjezhd) quoted from above has the expression BEAN BALL first appearing circa 1905 and the solo BEAN appearing in 1908, which is to say that they probably came out at about the same time.

Under the etymology of the verb the OED has it deriving from the noun BEAN with their earliest verb quote being from 1910. But my above 1885 and 1894 quotes put the OED listings in disarray, casting doubt on what came from what and when.

Below I provide the OED listings:


BEAN noun: The head. slang (originally U.S.). bean ball Baseball, a ball pitched at the batter's head.
<circa 1905 “While pitching Mr. Bender places much reliance on the bean ball.”—Champion Athletics by C. Dryden, page 16>

<1908 “Pop swung on a guy an' come near knockin' his bean offa him.”—The Maison de Shine: More Stories of the Actors' Boarding House by H. Green, page 130>

<1910 “One of the greatest and most effective balls pitched is the ‘bean ball.’. ‘Bean’ is baseball for ‘head’.”—Touching Second by Evers & Fullerton, vi. page 92>

<1912 “Beat it, before I bump me black-jack off your bean!”—The Apaches of New York by A. H.Lewis, page 20>

<1923 “If these Dutchmen get nasty, bang their blighted beans together.”—Comrades of the Rolling Ocean by R. D. Paine, x. page 168>

1924 “Have I got to clump you one on the side of the bean?”—Bill the Conqueror by P. G. Wodehouse, ii. page 63>
BEAN verb transitive slang (chiefly U.S.) [from noun]: To hit in the head.
<1910 “He is in extreme danger of being ‘beaned,’ which, in baseball, means hit in the head.”—American Magazine, page 398/2>

<1924 “Why did you not bean him with a shoe before he could make his getaway?”—Bill the Conqueror by P. G. Wodehouse, v, page 93>

<1939 “She was beaned by a copy of A Girl of the Limberlost that fell from the third floor.”—Kitty Foyle by C. Morely, xii. Page 124>
And incidentally, John (a.k.a. trolley), when I was a freshman in college, they still had hazing and we had to walk around wearing one of those beanies for about the first week.

Ken – September 18, 2010
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Re: Beaned and baseball

Post by Wizard of Oz » Sun Sep 19, 2010 8:01 am

.. I thought I might have an alternative lead on the bean ball .. in 1902 there was a high profile baseballer named Joe Bean .. now I thought that if he was a pitcher and he had a habit of deliberately pitching at the batter it may have been that the bean ball was named after him .. but alas and alack he was a short stop so there went another good theory .. but I did find the following ..
The Sun - May 15, 1903
“Clement hit the ball in the infield and McManus was caught between third base and home. Then things began to happen. Bean was hit by the pitcher and ... “
.. I found this interesting as it wasn’t referred to as a bean ball although it may have been that he wasn’t hit on the head .. so pressing on ……..

..from the Online Etymology Dictionary
bean Meaning "head" is U.S. baseball slang c.1905 (in bean-ball "a pitch thrown at the head"); thus slang verb bean meaning "to hit on the head," attested from 1910.
.. however the earliest quote I could find, with my limited resources, was ..
Chicago Tribune - Mar 31, 1908
“... on the altar of baseball today and Mr How and Atlanta's new grandstand from lire ... Then Sheckard first up walked and Schuilte * The bean ball knocked ... “
.. (NOTE: I apologise for the quality of the quotes as I was restricted to what was available as a free quote and these are not always totally clear.)

.. I then had trouble locating any further quotes until ..
Hartford Courant - Sep 10, 1912 - In the pitcher tries the "bean ball", that is, one close to the head with the idea of making him back away....
Chicago Tribune - Oct 15, 1912 - ... one on and nobody out in the third. and pitched valiant baseball when he got warmed .... to bat next time he thought Lange cut loose a bean ball to get even. ...
.. then a further gap to this different reference ..
New York Times - May 11, 1915 - "The Giants played poor baseball 'from the fact that the pitchers had .... ”You told me to bean him, didn't you?" replied Evans. ...
from this point on the word seemed to come into more common usage and maybe acceptance with quotes being much easier to find .. until in 1917 we find the batters fighting back ..
New York Times - Apr 8, 1917 - A new cap will be worn by shy ball players this season which will furnish protection against the ”bean ball”. The new hat is lined with cork which will break the force of the blow if the ball hits a player on the head.
.. however the following statement ..
New York Times - May 25, 1917
Pitchers convicted of using the "bean ball", a highly dangerous ball thrown directly at a batter's head, will be expelled from organized baseball ...
.. now it seems to me that bean balls are still being thrown to this day and not many pitchers are even getting thrown out of a single game far less banned ..

WoZ on the mound
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Re: Beaned and baseball

Post by JerrySmile » Sun Sep 19, 2010 8:56 am

Thank you very much, everyone.
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Re: Beaned and baseball

Post by zmjezhd » Sun Sep 19, 2010 2:45 pm

While I was noodling about the Web searching for beans and beanies and such-like, I came across an absolutely delightful, Medieval Latin word beanus 'freshman, first year undergraduate student'. Like many strange words in Medieval Latin, it is a Latinification of a French word bejaune (literally bec jaune 'yellow beak'). This latter also yield a rarish Scots word, bejan, which the OED defines as: "A freshman at the Scotch universities, where the term was adopted from the University of Paris. (Now obsolete at Edinburgh.)" I found (on Google Books) an article ("Hazing and Fagging") by Paul Carus (1852–1919)
Our university authorities sometimes have trouble to suppress, or at least to confine within reasonable limits, the customs of hazing and fagging. Even where these abuses are most rigorously punished they turn up again, and like weeds prove almost ineradicable. The truth is that even in their worst excrescences they are less virulent forms of old customs which centuries ago were observed with an almost religious punctiliousness that would have been worthy of a better purpose. (Link.)
This article also has some great reproductions of woodcuts from Widebrand's Carmen Heroicum (most with the surtitle O beane beanorum 'O bejan of bejans'. One of the images has a reluctant bejan being held literally with his nose to a grindstone. (I could not, of course, help but think of Rowan Atkinson's character Mr Bean for some unknown reason.) Everywhere I turned, I came across more new (to me) and delightful words: e.g., German Gelbschnabel and Dutch geelbek (both literally 'yellow beak', along with which English greenhorn cropped up. The abstract noun beanium was glossed as 'footing money'. Hazing, I knew because it is still the custom in US universities as an initiation into fraternal organizations, or greeks, but i had not heard of fagging with a similar sense. Do our British members know it? I did had a dim recollection that fagging was the practice of a younger student doing errands for an older one, from books and movies taking place in a public school context. The Latin term for hazing is depositio. One of the definitions of deposition in the OED is "The action of deposing or putting down from a position of dignity or authority; degradation, dethronement." (And, there is an ecclesiastical term which refers to taking the body of Jesus down from the cross.) As if all this was not enough, there are several acronymic etymologies offered (tongue in cheek no doubt) for beanus, e.g., beanus est animal nesciens vitam studiosorum ("a bejan is an animal unfamiliar with the life of students"). This acronym also has the honor of being one of it not the first recursive acronym (link) extant.
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Re: Beaned and baseball

Post by trolley » Mon Sep 20, 2010 7:09 pm

Wiki (I know, I know) agrees with Jim’s recollection of “fagging”. They also say it could include harsh discipline and corporal punishment. It later became a slang term in England meaning a wearisome chore or a punishment for children. Somehow, I am imagining being beaten with a stick. A related article also claims that the term “beanus” referred, not only to the first year students but also to those little skull caps they wore.
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Re: Beaned and baseball

Post by Bobinwales » Tue Sep 21, 2010 9:33 am

I only know of fagging as someone acting as a servant for an older boy in a public school (UK meaning of public school of course, meaning a very expensive private school).

Of late, possibly since it became a social stigma to smoke, someone can be "fagging" if they are smoking a cigarette. “Fag” is a legitimate name for a cigarette of course.
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Re: Beaned and baseball

Post by zmjezhd » Tue Sep 21, 2010 2:59 pm

A related article also claims that the term “beanus” referred, not only to the first year students but also to those little skull caps they wore.

I doubt it. The word is three syllables in Latin, and none of the books or articles I looked at mention that. I think it's just folk etymological wishful thinking. FWIW, the little contemporary illustrations of beani shows them with big floppy medieval academic hats or fools' hats with floppy belled horns..

While following up on "nose to the grindstone" as in "get to work", I discovered that its early meaning was to "punish or oppress somebody". A variant is "hold one's face to the grindstone".
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Re: Beaned and baseball

Post by Ken Greenwald » Wed Sep 22, 2010 7:38 am

Jim [a.k.a. zmjezhd), I agree with your assessment of John’s (a.k.a. trolley) above statement that “the term ‘beanus’ referred, not only to the first year students but also to those little skull caps they wore” is very unlikely.

The word BEANIE for cap first appeared in the 20th century, as far as I could make out, and arose in the game of baseball (see below). Most discussions on BEANIES tell where the word likely came from (bean = head); what the beanie has come to mean in the 20th and 21st centuries (although the stodgy dictionaries have not kept up to date with current common usage); and they don’t tell what they were called in days of yore – and, of course, they existed back then (see below). Nowadays they may be referred to as anything from ski caps (wool), to skullcaps (think Pope and yarmulkes), . . . brimmed and brimless hats, etc., school and college caps (at least in my college days), women’s wear (see OED below), etc.

In days of yore a BEANIE was mostly called a CAP (That was easy):

CAP noun [1382]: A head-dress of men and boys: commonly applied to every kind of ordinary male head-dress which is not called a ‘hat’, from which it is distinguished by not having a brim, and by being usually of some soft material; also to a number of official, professional, and special head-dresses. (Oxford English Dictionary)

And here’s what the OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY had to say (supplemented by definitions from some other dictionaries) along with their quotes:

BEANIE A small close-fitting hat worn off the face (OED); A skullcap, often brightly colored, worn especially by children and by college freshmen, especially in the 1940s (Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary); A small brimless cap (American Heritage Dictionary); A small, close-fitting hat worn on the back of the head, something like a skullcap [[(think Pope and the Jewish yarmulkes]].The word dates from the 1940s and presumably derives from the ‘bean’ as a slang term for the head. (Brewer’s Dictionary of Modern Phrase and Fable)
<1943 “Matching felt beanie pins.”—Mademoiselle, November, page 196>

<1944 Beanie, a clever little dink to perch atop your curls.”—Sears Roebuck Midsummer Book, page 22>

<1958 “Back-of-the-head beanies . . . are a piece of evening prettiness.”—Vogue, mid-September, page 58>

<1962 “Courageous Mrs. C. . . .wears the same beanies every year regardless of the milliners.”—On the Contrary by M. McCarthym page 188>

<1966 “Model girls snapping up . . . tiny beanie hats.”—Punch, 16 March, page xv>

And not a word about baseball, although the various dictionaries above seem to agree (for those which offered origins) that the word derives from BEAN meaning ‘head ’ and that should, at least, give the suspicion of a possible baseball connection.

If one does a Google search, one will quickly find that BEANIE has taken on many other meanings as I mentioned above: knitted wool caps worn in the winter (some with a short brim in the front) often worn as far down as over the ears, and popular with teenagers trying to look cool even in the summer; ski hats which often include earflaps; any short-brimmed hat, . . .); and let’s not forget the famed propeller head beanie (which became synonymous with ‘technical geek').

But when did the word BEANIE first appear in print and what did it mean? And I wasn’t thrilled by the OED’s first in print date (i.e. 1943) nor with their selection of quotes, which all had to do with women's head coverings.

By happenstance, I have a book in my library titled A TAD Lexicon by Leonard Zwilling, which some years ago was sent to me by Gerald Cohen, Professor of Foreign Languages at the University of Missouri-Rolla. I had contacted him asking if he knew where I might get a copy of this evidently rare and out-of-print volume (he was the editor) and, amazingly he sent me a stapled-together version, gratis!

TAD stands for Thomas Aloysius Dorgan (mostly known as Tad Dorgan ) who was a famous cartoonist and sportswriter from the early 1900s who coined many expressions that are still in use today and many of which are connected to sports. Which got me to wondering if the book might have anything on the BEANIE. In the first section of the book are words and phrases which Dorgan found in other sources and which antedated anything that could be found in the dictionaries (OED, etc), slang dictionaries, . . . of his day. The second section contained expressions which are only to be found in his work (many of which he coined).

I found the following in the first section:
BEANIE [Oxford English Dictionary Supplement 1943][[previous earliest quote]]
<1904 [[cartoon title and caption]] (The Giants and Their New Hats) “I’ll just save this beanie and bet it on the election.”—New York Evening Journal, 24 September, page 6>
So, in 1904 or possibly a little earlier the word BEANIE, the cap, arose in the game of baseball. Strange that the OED did not pick up on this one because there is really no shortage of beanie quotations predating their 1943 example. Here are some I came up with:
<1918 “‘Les boys’ march along, rifles slung across their broad shoulders, . . . their sturdy legs encased in puttees and the comfortable service cap, familiarly known as the ‘beanie,’ adorning their heads.”— Scribner's Magazine Vol. 64, page 759>

<1922 “She [[the librarian]] knows just when Johnny’s hand steals under the table for his ‘beanie,’ and how to interpret glances and signals between tables.”—Public Libraries Vol. 27. page 540>

<1927 . . . that golf beanie.’ The soph, belligerent yet appraising, eyed John carefully. Perhaps John was all right. . . . he muttered to himself as he hurried off on his important task of looking over the frosh . . .”—East Side West Side by F. Riesenberg, page 183>

<1939 “Now in her first Broadway appearance, she sings All Dressed Up, the lament of a co-ed who has been wed to a football player for a year but still wears a yellow beanie because her husband is in perpetual training for the team.”—Life, 23 October, page 78> [[A figurative yellow beanie, college, hmm!]]

<1939 “The freshman wears his ‘beanie and smokes only a corncob pipe on the campus. The other classes give wide berth to sophomore lawn, and none but a senior may sit in peace on senior bench.”—California: A Guide to the Golden State, page 182>

<1940 “Kits for the French poilu [[common soldiers]]. Twenty thousand have been shipped, complete with beanie (little knitted cap), sweater, milk chocolate, postcards, shaving soap and mirror,”— Life, 24 June, page 78>

<1942 “And there's Mollic Armstrong, who has thrown her new ‘beanie’ into the ring of Texas politics.”— Optometric Weekly, Vol. 33, Issue 2, page 902>

<1943 “Just fer that I get two hundred ‘dobies?’ Blake nodded. ‘And a Prince Willie coat? And a silk beanie? And a gold-headed cane?”— Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen's Magazine, Volumes 114-115, page 281>
(quotes from archived sources)

Ken – September 21, 2010
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Re: beaned, beanie, and baseball

Post by Wizard of Oz » Thu Sep 23, 2010 7:25 am

.. here is the post I submitted to WW in 2004 ..
Archived Reply

Joined: 10 Dec 2004 19:38
Posts: 27286
Location: , beanie hat
Posted on: 19 Nov 2004 06:15

Simon if you come Downunder then you will definitely find the home of the beanie .. in fact if you were to go to Alice Springs in the Northern Territory then you could attend the Festival of the Beanie .. ( .. the "more recent" definition you site is as it has been all of my life in Aus .. beanies are worn as the identifying colours of your favourite football team (much better on a cold winter day than the upstart Yankie style baseball cap), to identify particular subcultures ( a good "Westie" would never been seen without his beanie even in the summer) and Aussie skiers wear them all the time .. when I was young they always had a pompom on the top but this seems to have vanished .. the beanie is so versatile and can be dressed up or dressed down to suit the occasion ..
WoZ of Aus. 15/08/04

Reply from Wizard of Oz (Newcastle - Australia)
.. nothing much has changed Downunder with regard to beanies since then .. they have probably if anything become more popular .. one thing I do challenge is that the Northern Territory has made the beanie their very own .. please go and look at these beanies for the very latest fashion statements ..

.. to give you an idea of how serious Aussies are about their beanies I offer the following without comment ..
The Northern Star. 23rd September 2010
‘HARMLESS' robber Kurt Andrews held up a Byron Bay service station, then ran back inside to grab a rugby league beanie and an energy boost drink from the shop fridge before driving away.
Fearing the man had a knife or syringe in his jumper the operator opened the cash register and Andrews took $900 cash and left.
Moments later he ran back in and stole a Gatorade drink and a Panthers rugby league beanie.
When police stopped his ute and arrested him at gunpoint Andrews was wearing the beanie. He told the officers he needed the cash to buy some pills.

WoZ who wears one
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