I was reading a comic book and ran into this phrase. Is there any difference between 'spill the beans' and 'spill the metaphorical beans'? here is the context.

Talk show host: "But seriously, Reed. Spill the metaphorical beans. What gives with Attilan?" Reed: "Well, Attilan's a riddle wrapped up in an enigma inside a conundrum. I can say that they are a very remarkable people"

Would that mean "Tell me what you think about this in metaphorical manner"? I want to make sure what the difference is. Can anybody help me to understand?

  • 5
    There is no difference.'Spill the beans' is a well-known metaphor, so adding 'metaphorical' is just for style because the host thinks it sounds better. It is somewhat redundant, unless Reed is sat with a container of beans in his lap. Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 8:58
  • Wow, thank you for enlightening me! <3
    – Iseayou
    Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 12:23
  • 1
    Proverbial is also commonly inserted, as in spill the proverbial beans.
    – choster
    Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 16:05
  • The alternate meaning might be expressed as Spill the beans, metaphorically. Although I think most would still interpret that as equivalent to the original. To really get the point across, you'd probably have to use something like your long-winded version.
    – Barmar
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 20:01

1 Answer 1


The only difference between spill the beans and spill the metaphorical beans is that one employs an obvious idiom whereas the other assumes the listener is learned enough to know what metaphorical means but ignorant to the non-literal nature of the expression spill the beans.

In an instance where there is some legitimate potential for confusion, such as if you were a teacher telling a young student to pull their socks up, it might warrant the extra emphasis. In the context of a talk show host it's just using extra words for the sake of filling space or trying to look intelligent.

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