Why do we in NJ call them Bennys? Here are the 8 most popular theories
There are a few theories about the origins of the term "Benny" as a slang term for out-of-town tourists to the New Jersey shore.
If you thought you knew the exact origin story of the term, I got news for you. There are plenty of people who disagree with you.
I thought I knew where the term came from, but it turns out that there are more theories than I ever knew! Here are a few of the most commonly cited explanations from our listeners.
One theory is that the term "Benny" originated as a shortened version of the name "Benjamin," which was a common name among Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe who first visited and eventually settled in New Jersey.
Some believe that the term "Benny" may have originated from the Bendix Corporation, a company that was based in New Jersey and was known for producing consumer products such as washing machines and appliances. According to this theory, tourists from New Jersey were referred to as "Bennies" because they were seen as being especially interested in consumer goods and material possessions.
Another theory is that Benny is short for benefactor, which a tourist with a full pocket would be if he spent his money at the beach, or shops and restaurants along the Jersey Shore.
Some say that the term Benny was used to refer to of all of the spectators who would flood into New Jersey to attend the Benihana Offshore Grand Prix. This race was known as the Indy 500 of Offshore Racing and was held in Point Pleasant Beach, NJ, during the 1970s. Eventually, it referred to any tourist to the shore.
Doctors would consider the sea and salt air a great benefit to those who suffered from asthma, and or breathing problems. Benny is said to be short for the beneficial effect that a trip to the shore would have on their health.
Some say that the influx of hundred dollar bills that excited tourists would bring with them on a Jersey Shore spending spree earned the nickname Benny after Benjamin Franklin, who appeared on the bill.
“Benny" may also be a shortened form of "beginner," as many tourists are new to a place and may not be familiar with local customs and traditions.
The most popular theory is that Benny stands for Bayonne, Elizabeth, Newark, and New York, the route that the train took to get from New York to the Jersey Shore. Its initials, B.E.N.N.Y., forming an acronym on the train ticket. Alternatively, their suitcases were stamped with those initials.
So this theory has been debunked since there has never been a train line that ran through those stops consecutively, people who clean to this theory say that perhaps it was slang for the cities most travelers originated from.
It's worth noting that these theories are all somewhat speculative, and it's difficult to say with certainty where the term "Benny" actually came from. It's possible that the term may have multiple sources or that it has evolved over time to take on new meanings.
Either way, if you’re going to use it, say it under your breath. It’s considered a pejorative, and no one wants to be referred to by that nickname.
Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Judi Franco only.
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