What was Mitt Romney talking about at the primary debate Saturday when he scolded Newt Gingrich for complaining about negative ads, saying "this ain't bean bag"? If you are certain age, you might have instantly thought of hacky sack, the game all the cute skaters played in eighth grade. But that seemed like a very unlikely reference for Romney to make. Then, on Monday, Gingrich used the phrase too, when Real Clear Politics noted Romney protested that calling him a corporate raider was unfair. Gingrich responded that President Obama's reelection campaign is "going to raise a billion dollars. They're not raising it -- as the governor himself said in your quote, 'This ain't bean bag.' They aren't going to raise a billion dollars for fun." Okay, guys, from context clues we can tell "this ain't bean bag" is sort of a synonym for "quit your moaning." But what is "bean bag"? We offer a young person's PSA.
Teagan Goddard explains that the quote is a reference to newspaper columnist Finley Peter Dunne, who in 1895 created the character Mr. Dooley. Dooley, an Irish-American, said things like, "Sure, politics ain't bean-bag. ‘Tis a man’s game, an’ women, childer, cripples an’ prohybitionists ‘d do well to keep out iv it." But that only explains what bean bag isn't (politics). What is it?! Urban Dictionary provides a lot of potential definitions, most of them dirty. We thought: maybe it's cornhole? That's what those perverts in the Ohio Valley call bean bag toss. Further investigation showed the term got really popular in the 1910s, according to Google's N-grams viewer, and began to die with flappers. But we still don't understand what bean bag is.