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Full of beans

  • Full of beans is an idiom that became popular in the mid-1800s. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions such as beat around the bush, ballpark figure, let the cat out of the bag, hit the sack, Achilles heel, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, a dime a dozen, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the meaning of the expression full of beans, its etymology, and some examples of its use in sentences.


     

    To be full of beans means to have a lot of energy, to be lively and enthusiastic, to have a joie de vivre. Synonyms of the phrase full of beans that may be found in a thesaurus are hyperactive, spirited, animated. The phrase full of beans seems to have come into popular use in the mid-1800s and is attributed to a practice of feeding beans to horses as fodder. Supposedly, horses that were fed beans were more energetic and lively. Beans were a staple in the diet of many Americans in the mid-1800s. More recently, the phrase full of beans is sometimes used to mean not truthful, but this is not the correct use of the idiom.

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    Examples

    They are full of beans and their favourite pastime is racing each other up and down their cage. (The West Australian)

    “When I get up at four to take the dogs for a walk before work, Dot wakes up too, always looking like she is over the moon to have woken up for another day, smiling and full of beans at four in the morning.” (Lincolnshire News)

    Another positive usage of the simple bean is when we say “full of beans” to describe someone/something that is full of life and vigor. (The Stokes News)


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