Posted by James Briggs on October 07, 2000
In Reply to: Beef posted by ESC on October 07, 2000
: : Why do we use the word to mean a complaint or gripe?
: : Where did this meaning come from?
: BEEF - "In order to get them from their ranges to railroads, herds of beef cattle were once forced to trot for day after day in all kinds of weather.Residents of railhead cow towns didn't need to be told when a rancher and his cowpokes were getting close - noise made by the 'beef' could be heard for miles. Cattle drives are long gone, but a person who is loud in finding fault is still said to 'beef' - or bellow like a tired and thirsty steer." From "Why You Say It" by Webb Garrison (Rutledge Hill Press, Nashville, Tenn., 1992).
Beef: To beef about something, means to complain or moan. Until the one above was offered, I had found only one explanation for this expression and it is another that I find less than convincing; never-the-less, here goes. It allegedly comes from the London criminal underworld, well known to be full of cockney rhyming slang. The traditional shout of "stop thief!" was mocked by being replaced by "hot beef, hot beef" in criminal circles who thought that the shouters of "stop thief" were making an unnecessary fuss. The 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue defines Beef as: "to cry beef; to give the alarm", thereby supporting the above suggested origin.