The phrase or expression “it ain’t worth a hill of beans” has everything to do with beans. People using the phrase usually refer to something of trifling value, the epitome of worthlessness. Because of that, ‘beans’ were soon relegated to an unworthy state. The expression, however, gained international notice in the film Casablanca, when Humphrey Bogart tells Ingrid Bergman “Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world”.
Actually, the expression “a hill of beans” was literal. J.J. Thomas used it in the late 1850’s in describing how to grow lima beans, and it referred to the mounding along the row of bean seeds. In other words, instead of arranging the seeds in a row, which had been the typical way for planting beans, he encouraged farmers to plant the beans in clumps with four or five seeds in a little mound, thus creating a “hill of beans”.
Well, the phrase caught on and people used the expression to mean something of worthlessness, something not highly valued, and its literal meaning was disregarded. What stuck in peoples’ minds was that if one bean was worthless, then an entire hill of them would be even more so; and thus beans were given a bad rap. Unfortunately people didn’t understand the importance beans as a staple for many people around the world. If you incorporate them into a healthy diet, then they are definitely ‘worth a hill of beans’ wouldn’t you say?
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