bean counter

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Alternative forms[edit]


Probably from German Erbsenzähler (literally pea counter)


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bean counter (plural bean counters)

  1. (idiomatic, mildly derogatory) A person who is excessively interested in controlling or reducing expenses, increasing profits, or in quantitative details in general. The term is often used to imply the person is a pedant and incapable of seeing other things or the bigger picture (more general things), but it is also widely used as a mildly derogatory term and even facetious synonym for accountants, CEOs, CFOs, business and government officials responsible for financial decisions, etc.
    • 1985 Aug. 2, "Editorial: Sniffing at DOC health costs," Gainsville Sun, p. 14A (retrieved 13 Sep 2009):
      As any good bean counter will tell you, it costs money to treat people at a hospital.
    • 2008 Dec. 23, Robert Chew, "Who Is Bernie Madoff? Many Investors Didn't Ask," Time (retrieved 13 Sep 2009):
      And, in our case, the accounting firm of Halpern & Mantovani, CPA, in Encino, Calif., Chais' chief bean counter, pumped out the quarterly statements as if it were all rock solid.