Human Bean

Human Bean

Updated May 29, 2014 at 05:14PM EDT by Brad.

Added May 28, 2014 at 12:57PM EDT by Molly Horan.

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“Human Bean” is a common misspelling or mispronunciation of the phrase “human being.” On the web, the grammatical error has given rise to a series of cartoon illustrations and photoshopped images depicting an anthropomorphic bean.


The phrase was originally used as an intentional misspelling of “human being” in the 1952 children’s novel The Borrowers,[1] in which the miniature humans known as the “borrowers” refer to the average-sized humans as “human beans,” to mimic how young children may mispronounce it. The earliest known satirization of “human bean” as a commonly misspelled word appeared in the webcomic Monkey Business[2] in a strip titled “Human Bean,” published on November 6th, 2003.


On April 15th, 2004, Kimber7[3] published a piece of Magnificent 7 fanfiction titled “Human Beans.” The short story focuses on an argument over the proper pronunciation of human beings:

“You’ll be okay, kid. Just remember tomorrow’s another day. Learn from your mistakes, and move on. That’s what being a human bean is all about.” He walked over to his own desk.

“A human bean?” JD guffawed.

“Well, sure,” Buck said, holding his arms up to his side to encompass the rest of the room. “We’re all human beans.”

“I do hope you mean that we are all human beings,” Ezra said, ducking his head but not moving his eyes, looking at Buck studiously.

On May 19th, 2006, Yahoo Answers user Tarek_sa submitted a post titled “what is human bean mean??”[7] and in the following years, both sincere and tongue-in-cheek questions about the meaning of “human bean” continued to surface on the site[8] (shown below), in a similar vein to the usage of the question “how is babby formed?” On February 24th, 2010, a Facebook page[6] titled “When I was Little I thought Human Being Was Human Bean” was created.

However, the phrase “human bean” didn’t get its first viral breakout until May 2011, when it became known as a notable mondegreen found in the chorus of College & Electric Youth’s synth-pop song “A Real Hero” featured on the soundtrack for the 2011 neo-noir action crime film Drive.

“A real human being and a real hero
Real human being and a real hero
Real human being and a real hero
Real human being and a real hero
Real human being”

With the successful reception of the film, along with its official soundtrack album, fans of the film began creating a slew of parody videos highlighting the the misheard lyric (“real human bean and a hero”) from the song, as well as fan art illustrations depicting the protagonist of the film Drive (played by Ryan Gosling) as an anthropomorphic bean (shown below).

On December 21st, 2012, Buzzfeed[4] published an article titled “The 20 Most Unforgivable Twitter Spelling Mistakes Of The Year,” which included human bean. On February 8th, 2014, Thought Catalog[5] published an article titled “27 More Hilarious Spelling Mistakes That People On Twitter Can’t Stop Making.”

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