[Corpora-List] Numpties and bennies

Diana Maynard d.maynard at dcs.shef.ac.uk
Wed Dec 6 13:24:00 CET 2006

Hi Harry

My first thought was that it either meant "going on a bender" ie going
out and getting drunk, or having a big strop. The latter is confirmed by
good old Wikipedia:


/In England, the term is used as a pejorative slang term to describe
anyone of apparent mental slowness, especially by children (derived from
the character of the same name, played by Paul Henry
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Henry_%28actor%29> in the soap opera
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soap_opera> //Crossroads
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossroads_%28TV_series%29>). It is also
used to describe a person in a fit of rage or having a tantrum as in
"He's having a benny"./

A google search for "having a benny" reveals this and many similar examples.

The urban dictionary also reveals a number of other meanings


I guess this demonstrates the power of the internet over the BNC as a

Incidentally, there's no wikipedia entry for "numpty".
I must admit I would consider numpty to be on the fringe of the nonPC
terms, but then you can say the same about pretty much any of its


Harold Somers wrote:

> A colleague has just emailed me suggesting that the word "numpty" has

> become non-PC because of its association with Downs syndrome. I've never

> made that association ... Has anyone else?


> A trawl of the standard "references" suggests that numpty is a Scottish

> slang word (meaning 'idiot' or 'incompetent person') and is being

> considered fro inclusion in the next edition of the OED; but

> interestingly its total absence from the BNC suggests either that it has

> only recently entered the language, and/or that Scottish English is

> under-represented in the BNC.


> Would I be right in thinking that the word is entirely unknown in AmE?


> On a similar theme, I was thinking about the word "benny", a slang term

> which had a brief life in BrE. With the same meaning as numpty, its

> etymology is a character in a soap (Crossroads I think) called Benny who

> was "intellectually challenged". I seem to remember a news article

> during the Falklands War in which soldiers were being admonished because

> their slang word for Falkland Islanders was "bennies".


> "A benny" occurs twice in the BNC, both times in the same source (KCE -

> a conversation recorded by `Helena' (PS0EB)) as follows:


> KCE 7007 so she had a bit of a benny it was

> KCE 7260 I hadn't had a benny for a few days actually


> Helena also talks about "bennies":

> KCE 7258 Not that I ever have major bennies or anything


> I'm guessing that here she means a "benzedrine" tablet, though that

> interpretation doesn't really fit the syntax (a bit of a benny, major

> bennies). Anyone any idea what a benny is in this context? (Perhaps the

> surrounding text can help - what is the topic of the conversation?).


> There's one other occurrence of "bennies" in the BNC, from "Skinhead" by

> Nick Knight, the meaning of which I think is "Ben Sherman shirts"

> ARP 213 Most skinhead girls, sometimes called rennes, would wear

> bennies, button-fly red tags, white socks and penny loafers or monkey

> boots.



> Harold Somers




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