Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Tue Dec 21 16:41:04 UTC 2004

> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU]On Behalf
> Of Michael Quinion
> Sent: Tuesday, December 21, 2004 1:31 AM
> Subject: Bennies
> A subscriber asks about "bennies", the slang term for summer visitors
> along the Atlantic Coast of New Jersey. Does anyone have any firm
> knowledge of where it comes from? I have assumed that two supposed
> origins in initialisms are spurious.

There were three different origin tales that were common during my youth on
the Jersey Shore. Which, if any, is correct, I have no idea. The term got
its start decades before I was born and, while occasionally attested to in
newspapers, was not the type of term that left a clear trail of published
citations. The term is mildly derogatory.

The first is that it is simply after the name. Parts of the Jersey Shore
were frequented by Jewish visitors from North Jersey and "Bennie" was a
common name.

The second is that the summer visitors came for the "beneficial rays" of the

The third is that "Bennie's" was a shoe store in North Jersey. A certain
class of day visitors (as opposed to those who rented a place for a week)
would come carrying their  lunches in shoe boxes marked thusly.

The term is rarely heard nowadays. In my childhood it would be encountered,
but even then it was fading. It has been partially replaced by "Vinnie," a
reference to a certain type of visitor, of Italian descent, gold chains
around neck, mousse in hair, etc. "Vinnie," however, is not generally term
for a tourist.

I haven't heard the initialisms explanations. Could you elaborate?

--Dave Wilton
  dave at

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