For the last months, I have left English on the back burner.  My attention was based on taking pictures of flowers—basically.  Today I decided it was time to set my eyes on English again.

As usual, I like to learn new idioms.  They are fascinating to me, because the meaning is not exactly in the words themselves, but the meaning people give those words.  This time I’ll concentrate on the idiom, “spilling the beans”.

The idiomatic expression came to my attention, while listening to the morning news in which Donald Trump and Ted Cruz were having a tug-of-war about their spouses during their furious and intense political campaign.  It is highly probably you heard about this violent exchange of mutual accusations.

Donald Trump threatened Cruz, that if he kept on posting pictures of his wife posing as a a model with almost no clothes on, “he would spill the beans.”.  Now what is that idiom all about?  I’m sure it has nothing to do with beans, I mean the ones you eat.

“Spilling the beans” means revealing secret information unintentionally or indiscreetly.  (Trump fulfill threat to “spill the beans” on Heide Cruz.  To give away a secret or a surprise.  To let secret information become known.  In this colloquial expression, first recorded in 1919, spill means “divulge”, a usage dating from the 1500s.

Origins of this original idiom:

The derivation of this expression is sometimes said to be a voting system used in ancient Greece. The story goes that white beans indicated positive votes and black beans negative. Votes had to be unanimous, so if the collector ‘spilled the beans’ before the vote was complete and a black bean was seen, the vote was halted.

The earliest uses of ‘spill the beans’ come from the USA. The meaning of the phrase was then something like ‘spoil the beans’ or ‘upset the applecart’, which harks back to the supposed Greek knocking over of a bean container. The first example I can find is from The Stevens Point Journal, June 1908:

Tawney, when he came to congress, wasn’t welcomed within the big tent. He had to wait around on the outside. Then the blacksmith [Jim Tawney] got busy. He just walked off the reservation, taking enough insurgent Republicans with him to spill the beans for the big five.

We have ‘spill’, meaning ‘divulge’, but why beans? Well, it could have been almost anything. In fact, there are several ‘spill the’ variants – ‘spill the soup’, ‘spill your guts’, or simply, just ‘spill’.

And now you know another interesting idiom of the fascinating English language.  The language that I love—and hate at the same time.

Good Day!


9 thoughts on “Idioms”

    1. Morning Barbara:

      Now you can see how much I love the English language; albeit some times it drives me “loco“. It has been a love-hate relationship for many, many years.

      But I can’t live without it. What is that, an obsession? 🙂



  1. Hola Omar,
    ‘Drive me loco’ made me remember the lyrics to a Nitty Gritty Dirt Band song:

    “I’m gonna put a bar in the back of my car
    And drive myself to drink.”

    Nena taught herself English when she came to the USA in 1971, mostly from watching soap operas of the day. Her knowledge of American idioms still amazes me. Perhaps she was loca already? After all, she married me!

    1. Hola Jim & Nena:

      I’ve been trying to teach Aura some English, but she refuses. She tells me it’s easier to climb Mount Everest, than to master English. I’ll admitt she is partly right.

      Good for Nena and her self taught English. Learning idioms is not an easy task for somebody learning English as a second language.

      I can see you are a happy man, even a little “loco” as you say. Aren’t we all? 🙂



  2. I remember back when I was in the Third Grade in our country school, I nearly cried because I had not memorized the alphabet–and was unable to recite them. A friend came up and told me to use a poem that used all the letters of the alphabet and I did and was able to stand in front of all kids in our little school house and recite the alphabet.

    That led to me being in high school, a Sophomore (or in the 10th grade) and stood and read a short essay I had to write about my upbringing. I got to the part where I said something like, “Mother raised 2 kids.” and the teacher stopped me and said people or human beings “rear” children and “raise” vegetables in the garden. I was so embarrassed that I never wrote anything else and promptly quit school and walked out.

    Later on, in the Army, I had to take a test and passed it and it was recognized as a diploma from high school. After I got out of the Army, I went to a university and got enough credits to return to the high school and was awarded a regular high school diploma.

    I was able to prove my high school English teacher wrong by writing for newspapers until I retired from doing it and I wrote for newsletters and for magazines and often illustrated the stories too. That was in the days before we had computers so it was all done by longhand writing and I still have all of that stuff in notebooks. I have had more books published than anyone I know and one title sold nearly one million copies–all written by myself by hand, no less. The last two books I wrote included A Place to Live and the other was My Life as Abraham Lincoln. I wrote a book about our Native Americans and another about them and the Buffalo, entitled Buffalo and Indians. Nowadays, I just write on a post like your post today. The theme you used I found exceedingly hard to figure out how to use. Maybe you will choose an easier one sometime in the future. It shows nothing until you happen to find a line and click on it and it opens up your post.

    1. You have been my inspiration for a long time and the way you write is second to none. I’m sorry about the new theme. I’ll search and see if I can find an easier one. Once again, sorry Abe.



      1. I just found it hard to figure out since all the writing is reduced to a horizontal line. Never saw that on any template before but I managed, somehow, to get on and leave a comment.

  3. “Lick-a-de-split” is one I grew up with and you may not of heard of yet. It simply means to do something or run somewhere really fast.

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