What is the origin of "cool beans"? I know some sites (wiktionary) claim it's from the Cheech & Chong 1978 movie Up in Smoke, but I'm talking to people who remember it being used earlier. (USA).

I remember using the phrase in the mid-1980s (elementary school in Maryland) , and I assumed it had to do with Jelly Belly (a gourmet jelly bean company).

  • I don't know why the idea that it originated with Cheech & Chong persists, but the word "beans" does not actually appear in any of the transcripts. caption files, or screenplays I have found online. – choster May 11 '19 at 0:58
  • I've read it a few times and assumed it was some sort of Beatnik expression. "Cool", of course, is a well-known Beatnik term, but what is meant by "beans" in this context is unclear (Urban Dictionary gives several likely meanings). – Hot Licks Jul 16 '19 at 0:39
  • The captured German in the film “Saving Private Ryan” says “cool beans” when trying to convince the American soldiers how much he loves America. So if that’s anything to go by then its been around since at least 1944. – christiaantober Jan 4 at 23:26

The Oxford English Dictionary's earliest attestation for "cool beans" is from the 1985 book Grandpa Ritz and the Luscious Lovelies:

"Oh, wow! Cool beans!" I whispered.

  • Elsewhere in the same book (page 30): "'It's cool beans!' That's what Betsy always says when she thinks something is fantastic, and I couldn't help wondering what she'd say if she could see me now. ..." J.E. Lighter, Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang (1994) notes that in the early 20th century "beans!" by itself was "used to indicate surprise, annoyance, disbelief, etc."; Lighter cites an example from O. Johnson, Stover at Yale (1911): "Oh, beans!" This may be an unrelated usage, however. – Sven Yargs May 11 '19 at 2:51

I cannot find where I read this, but I recollect from my college days as a linguistics minor, that it originated from the French-Canadian explorers “cours bien” meaning “the course/path is good.” I can dig it.

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    Tommie, this might be a very good answer if it can be backed up by authoritative sources. I think you might rewrite the answer with some sources, and not have us depend on recollection. – J. Taylor Jul 16 '19 at 0:31
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    I have been trying to find the source! Thus far, I have found nothing and I know I didn' t make it up! I'm not that smart! It makes me feel like I am crazy...It has become my mission to find the source. I even dug out some of my linguistics texts. I will find it! :) – Tommiegirl Jul 16 '19 at 13:54
  • I like this -- if you can find a citation, that will be my official explanation in the future! – April Salutes Monica C. Jul 16 '19 at 13:59
  • Good for you, Tommie1 – J. Taylor Jul 16 '19 at 14:37
  • OK. I give up. I cannot find any "true" etymology of this phrase, only reference. I even went into researchgate/google scholar and read a few theses of interest. Also, I learned a lot about the Voyageurs of Canada (very interesting, BTW). Perhaps I read this on Wikipedia eons ago and it was since overtaken by some other "expert" and whatever I read about "cours bien" was complete BS? I've used this phrase off and on since at least the early 80s. I did find this which was interesting, but again, no real source: word-detective.com/2009/11/cool-beans – Tommiegirl Jul 17 '19 at 17:23

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