"Banana head" means a stupid person according to Farlex Idioms. Where did this idiom come from?

From Farlex:

n. a stupid person. (Usually objectionable.) Ask that banana-head why she is wearing a coat like that in July.

  • 1
    It does? Says who?
    – tchrist
    Commented Feb 20, 2018 at 4:59
  • Not sure that I've ever heard the term, but I suppose it might be a substitute for something like "mush-for-brains".
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Feb 20, 2018 at 13:43
  • I've not head that term in 60 years of listening and if I had, I'd have asked what the speaker meant. Purely in the context, "Ask that banana-head (anything)" doe ssuggest she has a problem… though not whwt. "Why she is wearing a coat like that in July" suggests at least that she has a problem but by no means what her problem is… Ask that banana-head why she is wearing a coat like that in July. Commented Mar 2, 2018 at 22:07
  • In context it might well be inferrable what it means, but I have to admit I would immediately understand it as a colloquial term for someone who’s very dolichocephalic. Commented Jul 22, 2018 at 18:59

2 Answers 2


From J.E. Lighter, Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang (1994):

bananahead n. a fool; idiot. [First two cited occurrences:] 1949 W.R. Burnett Asphalt Jungle 205: You...big...bananahead! 1963 E.M. Miller Exile to Stars 220: But I'll be damned if I'll have that banana-head Blair Winsted in here.

The epithet appears twice in a short span of text in The Asphalt Jungle (1949) [combined snippets]:

"Haven't you bothered me enough?" cried Angela. "You big ... bananahead!"

As she groped for an epithet, Andrews had winced inwardly, expecting the worst and not wanting to hear it. He had romantic feelings about pretty young women, and these feelings were always being outraged. He felt such marked relief that he burst out laughing.

Angela slammed the door in his face, but opened it again in in a moment, her anger considerably diminished. After all, this young cop was quite a spectacle. Big, roughly handsome, and with shoulders like a football-player. Besides ... who knows? She might need him. But to give in too fast was never very wise; so she narrowed her eyes again.

"Go ahead, laugh!" she cried. "But bananahead it is! ..."

In this exchange, it appears that Angela has made up the insult on the spot, and that Andrews has never heard it before.

An interesting alternative source of the term appears in the context of a series of preventive folk measures taken by members of an unidentified culture, in Folk, volumes 8–9 (1966) [snippet view]:

To plant bananas (lest the child have an extended head at birth; this is also popularly known as a "banana head" in English).

Unfortunately, the lack of context for this excerpt makes it difficult to assess what influence, if any, the phenomenon of neonatal "banana head" may have had on the emergence of the insult term.


From NTC's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions, Third Edition:

banana-head n. a stupid person. (Usually objectionable.) Kelly can be such a banana-head! Ask that banana-head why she is wearing a coat like that in July.

According to World Wide Words, the origin of banana head is unknown

Among others, banana has been used as an obvious slang term for the penis (and also for a dollar, for less obvious reasons); it was once a name for a slapstick comedian in vaudeville, leading to those evocative terms top banana for the starring act and second banana for a supporting performer or straight man. There’s banana oil for nonsense, baloney or hypocritical talk, a close relative of apple-sauce; a banana ball is one that curves in the air; a bananahead is a fool. All these are American, you will note.

In a 5-second video: banana head, Marilyn Monroes says "Haven't you bothered me enough, you big banana-head?" in THE ASPHALT JUNGLE (1950). See also reel classics.

So information is available but I failed to identify the idiom's origin.

  • 2
    Seems unlikely that "joe k. silva (circa 1985)" had anything to do with the origin of the pejorative term. See, for example, Shirley MacLaine, You Can Get There from Here (1975): "I was playing a nosy, irritating, empty-minded little banana head, who goes around the world bothering people." I strongly advise against trusting material posted on Definithing.com.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Jul 22, 2018 at 18:56
  • 1
    @SvenYargs noted and edited
    – lbf
    Commented Jul 22, 2018 at 19:20
  • You have a fantastic clip of the late Marilyn Monroe saying "Haven't you bothered me enough, you big banana head?" And yet, you cited 1985 as being the year it was coined. Why don't you find out the name of the movie and the year it was made?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 22, 2018 at 19:30
  • @Mari-LouA done
    – lbf
    Commented Jul 22, 2018 at 19:36
  • Without knowing it, the clip had given you all the information you needed.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 22, 2018 at 19:49

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