Hill of beans


What does Hill of beans mean?

Hill of beans is a noun phrase meaning something has little or no value, mostly used in negative statements.


What's the origin of Hill of beans?

Beans are often used in everyday expressions to indicate value, as they are fairly easy to grow.

The older saying “not worth a bean” appeared in Britain as early as 1380 when English poet Geoffrey Chaucer wrote in Troilus and Criseyde (ca. 1380), wrote, “Swich [such] arguments ne been nat worth a bene.”

The expanded formula “hill of beans” appeared later in the mid-19th century in America. According to sources, it was common to plant beans rather in little clumps called hills instead of rows as in Europe.

Spread & Usage

How did Hill of beans spread?

The term caught the attention of the international public after its famous appearance in the film Casablanca (1942) in which Humphrey Bogart says to Ingrid Bergman “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”.

This line has been uttered and re-quoted in many films for example in Mystery Science Theatre 3000 or in an episode of Alien from LA.

The action role-playing game Fallout: New Vegas released in 2010 had an unmarked quest entitled Not Worth a Hill of Corn and Beans.

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