Tag Archives: What’s the beef

What’s the Beef?

What was said? “What’s the Beef?”

Did someone really say that? Yes, Jimmy Fallon has a segment on the Tonight Show called “What’s the Beef?” where he creates fictional fights between famous actors. I was watching with my parents and they were naturally questioning… “why beef?”

What does it mean? It means to have a problem or issue with someone or something, so in the context above, “what’s the issue/argument all about?”


There are many ideas as to where this phrase started… all the way from it originating from rap songs signifying that when someone has “beef” with you, it ends up with a street fight where your face could get so banged up that it resembles ground beef, all the way to having to do with cow ownership and “beefy” situations:

  • The phrase “I have a beef with you” originated in the old west among sheep farmers who were competing for grazing land with cattle farmers. The sheep farmers used the term with each other to refer to a conflict, which was what they had with the cattle farmers, or “beef” farmers (answers.com)
  • Having to do with the ownership of cows and “cow feuds” which resulted as owners argued over the best interests of the cow and typically the cow got slaughtered and led to owners having “beef” with one another (10poundhammer blog)
  • First appearing in the U.S. during the late 1800s, “beef” describes a situation or complaint that might well escalate into a “beefy” muscular conflict (Word Detective)

So it seems, that there is not one origin for the phrase, but either way, Jimmy’s segment will make a lot more sense now!

Jimmy Fallon's "What the Beef?" Segment - Click to Play!

Jimmy Fallon’s “What the Beef?” Segment – Click to Play!

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