How many beans make 5? or One man’s fish is another man’s poisson

As a little fella, I was often asked by my dad the somewhat perplexing question: “How many beans make 5?”. The even more perplexing answer, “a bean, a bean and a half, half a bean and 2 beans”,  is imprinted on my brain like the lyrics to every Rush song up to, but not including, Test For Echo (I blame the fact that this was the first album not to be released on vinyl and therefore I didn’t spend hours stroking the gatefold sleeve whilst reading the astonishing literary offerings of Mr N. Peart esq.). As ever, I digress.

The above answer is, indisputably, correct and for years I was as certain, as certain can be, that it was the definitive answer.


In the early noughties, John Peel (DJ extraordinaire and National Treasure, RIP) asked the very same question on his BBC Radio 4 programme Home Truths. Imagine my surprise, dear reader, at

a) somebody else even knowing about the question


b) the staggering number of possible answers which his devout listeners sent in.

The debate seemed to go on for weeks and caused quite a kerfuffle amongst the cocoa-sipping, be-cardiganned denizens of Radio 4 land. Eventually, everyone had to agree to disagree.

Now, dear reader, I can hear you chuntering to yourself and muttering “What is this gibberish?”

Well, what this taught me was that sometimes there is no single definitive answer but that it doesn’t matter as long as everybody is aware that they’re discussing the same thing. Or in others words it doesn’t matter about the labels as long as the concept is agreed. That’s what we here at are trying to bring about and the next step with the vocabularies that we have is to create links between them as a precursor to the development of the Uberthesaurus.

We’re also hoping to link to other vocabularies from our cousins across the channel and make a truly multi-lingual resource. So if you know of a vocabulary that’s out there then point it in our direction. Thank you for you co-operation in this matter.

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