Green’s Dictionary of Slang

bean n.2

[abbr. beanstalk or beanpole or f. bean-tosser n.; or simply joc. use of SE bean]

1. a general term of affectionate address; usu. as old bean

[UK]A. Smith Adventures of Mr Ledbury I 261: ‘Well, my beans, – here we is,’ said Spriggy.
[US]J.H. Carleton Prairie Logbooks (1983) 26 May 187: Feller beans, that thar trail leads through a howlin’ wilderness.
[UK]A. Smith Medical Student 91: Halloa, Muff! how are you, my bean.
[UK]‘Sapper’ Bulldog Drummond 211: Oh you daisy [...] you pair of priceless beans.
[Aus](con. WWI) A.G. Pretty Gloss. of Sl. [...] in the A.I.F. 1921–1924 (rev. t/s) n.p.: bean. A mode of address, as ‘Hello, old Bean’.

2. (US) a foolish or unpleasant person.

[US]M.G. Hayden ‘Terms Of Disparagement’ in DN IV:iii 198: bean, term of disparagement. ‘I want that darn bean of a M--- to stop calling me “honey”.’.
[US]T. Thursday ‘Score Another One for Barnum’ in Argosy All-Story 11 Sept. [Internet] Remember the time some bean tried to sell you Broadway for next to nothing; hey?
[US]S.J. Simonsen Soldier Bill 40: If a bean like this fellow went to heaven, Bill was satisfied to go to the other place.

3. (US black) a black person.

H. Thomas ‘Arkansas’ [lyrics] Little wife said, ‘Honey, I’m done with beans, I’m goona pass for green’ [i.e. white].

4. any person.

[US]L.K. Truscott IV Dress Gray (1979) 247: Every squad leader had his good guys, his averages, and his fuck-ups. In any squad, it would be three or four good beans, three or four take ’em or leave ’em beans, and a couple of dead-ahead fuck-ups. [Ibid.] 248: The squad fuck-ups, a pair of dufus beans.

In compounds

bean-trap (n.)

(US Und.) a high-class confidence man.

[US]Trumble Sl. Dict. (1890) 8: Bean-Traps. Stylish sharpers; high-toned confidence men.
[Aus] (ref. to 1890s) ‘Gloss. of Larrikin Terms’ in J. Murray Larrikins 202: bean traps: stylish confidence men.

In phrases

old bean (n.) (also old haricot)

1. a fellow, a term of address, usu. to a man.

[UK] ‘The Only Way’ in C.H. Ward-Jackson Airman’s Song Book (1945) 3: Oh, poor old bean, Archie got him clean.
[UK]Wodehouse Indiscretions of Archie Ch. iii: ‘Honestly, old bean – I mean, dear old thing, – I mean, darling,’ said Archie, ‘I can’t believe it!’.
[UK]‘Leslie Charteris’ Enter the Saint 114: As soon as Whiskers has rumbled that joke, you, old haricot [...] will beetle in and arrest the lot of us.
[UK]F. Tuohy Inside Dope 96: Well, old bean! Haven’t seen you since the Cannes Conference!
[US] in G. Legman Limerick (1953) 111: She pulled down her knickers, / And also the vicar’s, / And said, ‘How about it, old bean?’.
[US]Kerouac letter n.d. in Charters II (1999) 124: Well, old bean, Gary is back.
[US]O. Hawkins Ghetto Sketches 155: Thank you, old bean . . . better luck next time.
[UK]S. Selvon Eldorado West One 72: Don’t be so avaricious old bean.
[US]Dennis the Menace Annual 29: Thank you, old bean!
[UK]N. Griffiths Grits 67: Oh dear, I rather think Wales should be granted autonomy, old bean.

2. an old person, seen affectionately or kindly.

[UK]V. Delmar Bad Girl 67: You’d be surprised what these old beans of ours will stand.
[UK]A. Christie Body in the Library (1959) 138: An eccentric old bean, this.