Are People Talking Behind Your Back at the Beach?

ByABC News via GMA logo
July 21, 2005, 3:53 PM

July 22, 2005 — -- They are called different names in different areas of the country.

In Southern California they are "Zonies," in South Jersey they are "Shoebies" and in Bradley Beach, N.J., the focus of's "By the Boardwalk" series, they are called "Bennies."

Are you one of them?

If you do not live by a beach, but have ever been to one between Memorial and Labor Day, you belong to that large portion of the population locals love to hate: "summer people."

"A Benny is someone who's not a local from New York, with a New York/northern New Jersey attitude," said Brian Phillips, a radio jock on the popular Jersey Shore alternative rock station, G106.3. "It elicits quite the response. Every time that subject is brought up, the phone lines light up."

(Phillips himself commutes an hour from northern Jersey to the Jersey Shore each day for work, but in a debate with his listeners, it was determined he is not a Benny because he contributes to traffic congestion year round.)

There are many different theories about the origins of the world "Benny." Phillips heard it started because people from New York would come down and spend a lot of money, or "benjamins." Bradley Beach Mayor Stephen Schueler heard the word came from boats owned by a guy named Benny that people would rent in the summer. The lifeguards at Bradley Beach believe Benny is an acronym for Bayonne, Elizabeth, Newark and New York, cities close enough to the Shore that many people drive down for the day.

According to local lore it should be easy to spot a Benny on the beach. Just look for the guy wearing white sneakers, black socks, a tight T-shirt and gold chains. He'll be carrying a boogie board, posing for pictures with his equally pale friends and maybe even pumping his fists in the air to the beat of the hottest dance club tune.

Bennies get blamed for traffic, lack of parking, cover charges in bars and long lines in bagel stores.

"Locals are most offended because it gets so crowded on the Jersey Shore and they don't have access to their own back yard," Phillips said.