Mind Your Own Beeswax

Do you remember saying, “None of your Beeswax” or “Mind your own beeswax” as a kid? It means, “None of your business.”

Photo of Beeswax

It popped into my mind the other day and vividly reminded me of being a kid again… it’s just one of those expressions that brings you back!

According to Honeybee: Lessons from an Accidental Beekeeper (2009) by C. Marina Marchese, the expression might have its origins in the time when people sealed their letters with beeswax so no one could read them.

Elsewhere, it says the expression comes from a time when women sat together making candles out of beeswax. If someone would comment on another lady’s progress, the retort would be “Mind your own beeswax.”

According to 1,001 Old-Time Household Hints: Timeless Bits of Household Wisdom for Today (2006) by the Editors of Yankee Magazine, the expression comes from women using beeswax on their faces to make their complexion look better. If they sat too close to the fire the beeswax would melt. So “mind your beeswax” came about.

Personally, I like the first explanation the best. It fits in with not being nosy and is a nice story!

Another expression kids use when they don’t want to tell you something is, “None of your B.I. Business”. The question is, what does B.I. stand for? I found “Butt-Insky” as a possibility on a forum. Buttinsky is slang for a meddler (i.e. someone who butts in). I looked up “buttinski” in the Oxford English dictionary and found “butt-in” in the definition. I think “butt-in” alone could be where B.I. comes from.

If anyone would like to shed more light on these expressions, feel free to comment below. We also welcome similar expressions in English or in other languages.

Photo Credit: Original Wikipedia, edited by Mama Lisa

This article was posted on Wednesday, October 6th, 2010 at 4:07 pm and is filed under Bees, Gardens, It's None of Your Beeswax, Mama Lisa, None of Your B.I. Business, Words & Phrases. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

7 Responses to “Mind Your Own Beeswax”

  1. Uly Says:

    All three origins you give are spurious at best – I think the last has even been Snopes’d.

    The truth is that people had for a long time said “mind your own business” and sometime in the 1920s (the same decade that gave us the bees knees) people started playing with it and saying “beeswax” instead, for no other reason than that it sounds similar.

    This isn’t a very interesting etymology, but then, most aren’t. So people make up funny stories – aka “folk etymologies” instead. But they’re not true, and it’s appalling what gets published nowadays.

  2. Lisa Says:

    Well, they’re interesting stories, but I think they were mainly written as possibilities. I’m curious where you read about the etymology.

  3. Uly Says:

    As far as b-i-bizness goes, if I were to guess I’d say it probably doesn’t have an origin other than children pretending they couldn’t spell it (or maybe they couldn’t spell it). It fits into the same pattern of n-o NO and “u-g ugly with an extra UGH”.

    But I’m not a lexicographer by trade, you’d want to ask one of them.

  4. Lisa Says:

    It’s interesting to consider where these phrases come from… but the interesting aspect for me is that when I think of these phrases, it brings back the feeling of being a kid. Adults generally don’t say them. I don’t think I’ve said either of them since I was in grade school!

    Another one is, “It’s for me to know and for you to find out.”

  5. Uly Says:

    Okay, I posted a follow-up to “where I read that about their etymology” something like three times and it never posted. Ugh.

  6. Lisa Says:

    You can email it to me if you’d like and I’ll post it for you. I’m at lisa@mamalisa.com

    Thanks for trying!

  7. Uly Says:

    It was a little snippy, tell the truth. It’s probably just as well.

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