Way With Words: Spill the Beans
If somebody 'spills the beans,' in today’s vernacular, it means that they revealed a big secret.
For example if you tell Sandy that Bobby is cheating on her, you are the bean spiller.
Most of the time the term is used as a malicious revelation rather than an unintentional slip of the tongue.
The term is commonly believed to originate in Ancient Greece when popular vote put officers in positions of power.
Votes were confidential and tallied by a method of putting white or black beans in a container.
A clumsy voter could 'spill the beans,' and reveal the nature of the vote prematurely, letting everyone in on the fact that the officer’s vote was not unanimous.
This phrase has not been used throughout history in the times since Ancient Greece, so it has been retroactively attributed to then.
In America, 'spill' has been a synonym for divulging, so it really could have been anything spilled, although many other forms of the same phrase exist, such as 'spill your guts.'
Conversely, telling someone 'don’t spill the beans,' is the same as asking them to keep a secret.
Of course we here at LIVE! won’t mind if you spill the beans on our site.
Recommended for You
Get more stories like this by signing up for our daily newsletter, The LIVE! Daily.