Skip to main content

Are accountants legumaticians or beancounters?

Legumaticians seems to be a made up word that acts as a clever synonym for 'bean counter'. What's the origin of that phrase which is commonly used as a derogatory term for an accountant?

The most obvious answer might be a reference to those who counted the beads (or beans) on an abacus. However this is not borne out by an internet search.

According to the August 11, 2000 issue of the Word detective:
"Bean counter" has an interesting history. It seems to have first appeared in the mid-1970s in the U.S., and its original use was simply as a vivid synonym for "accountant," especially one who brooked no nonsense. Its first known occurrence in print was in a 1975 Forbes magazine article that referred to "a smart, tightfisted and austere 'bean counter' accountant from rural Kentucky," though we can assume the quotation marks meant the writer had heard the term in use before the date of the article. In any case, the allusion is clearly to an accountant so dedicated to detail that he or she counts everything, down to the last small, but still important, bean.

By the 1980s, however, most appearances of "bean counter" in the media were taking on a derogatory tone, and "bean counter" is now frequently used to mean a nitpicker who, lost in the numbers, fails to see the "big picture."
The 'wiseGEEK' site has a more graphic analysis that includes:
While an accountant might be asked to perform a thorough inventory of his or her company's assets, only a bean counter would literally count the number of beans contained in the company kitchen's pantry. A financial bean counter may also scrutinize each department's budget to find any form of potential waste, no matter how insignificant or nominal it appears to be.
It is possible that the description was inspired by overzealous kitchen inventory takers who insisted on counting every bean in a bag or every potato in a sack. The act of counting every bean to the exclusion of more important duties would be viewed by many as the ultimate act of micromanagement. Perhaps the term "bean counter" entered the popular vernacular through the commercial or military food industries, where strict inventory controls are common.
1 comment

Popular posts from this blog

How many accountants does it take to change a light bulb?

How many accountants does it take to change a light bulb?

How many would you like it to be?

How many accountants does it take to change a light bulb?

What kind of answer did you have in mind?

How many accountants does it take to change a light bulb?

Hmmm....let me run a few numbers and get back to you....

How many accountants does it take to change a light bulb?

Two. One to change it and one to make sure it was done within budget

And lastly, my favourite:

How many accountants does it take to change a light bulb?

One, but he'll have 1500 of them to do on 31st January.

(This response was suggested by Adrian Higgs)

Are you a prostitute or are you an auditor?

1. You work very odd hours.

2. You are paid a lot of money to keep your client happy.

3. You are paid well but your pimp gets most of the money.

4. You spend a majority of your time in a hotel room.

5. You charge by the hour but your time can be extended.

6. You are not proud of what you do.

7. Creating fantasies for your clients is rewarded.

8. It's difficult to have a family.

9. You have no job satisfaction.

10. If a client beats you up, the pimp just sends you to another client.

11. You are embarrassed to tell people what you do for a living.

12. People ask you, "What do you do?" and you can't explain it.

13. Your client pays for your hotel room plus your hourly rate.

14. Your client always wants to know how much you charge and what they get for the money.

15. Your pimp drives nice cars like Mercedes or Jaguars.

16. Your pimp encourages drinking and you become addicted to drugs to ease the pain of it all.

17. You know the pimp is charging more than you are worth but if the client…

Ken Dodd and the Inland Revenue

The comedian Ken Dodd, was prosecuted for tax evasion in 1989 as has been mentioned on this blog before, here and here. I'd love to find a clip of him talking about it in his act. For now though here are a couple of references to comments he makes about the experience.

He is known to introduce himself as a “failed accountant”. That, he explains, is simply to establish a rapport with the audience. “People today are all stressed out about home economics, and accountants are the current bogeymen. [Since when?]

Dodd is the butt of a lot of his material and repeated references are made to his love of money, his dislike of what he insists on calling the Inland Revenue and his past run-in with them. “They sent me a self-assessment form the other day. To me! I invented self-assessment.”

During the trial it was revealed that Dodd had very little money in his bank account. He did however have £336,000 in cash stashed in suitcases in his attic. When asked by the judge, "What does a…