Posted by S. on February 03, 2003
In Reply to: "Flying F***": Vonnegut vs. Steinbeck posted by R. Berg on February 02, 2003
: : : : : : : : Origin of the phrase "couldn't give a monkey's" ?
: : : : : : : : A monkey's what? Is it rhyming slang perhaps?
: : : : : : : : Thanks
: : : : : : : : Jon
: : : : : : : I believe it to be just another case of choosing an animal to illustrate a point - eg 'sick as a parrot', 'dog-tired'. The example is particularly crude, because I've always understood that there's a missing word, indicating that things are so trivial as to be not worth caring about. 'I don't give a monkey's f**k'.
: : : : : : I thought it was "a monkey's butt," from the "I don't give a rat's a**" genre.
: : : : : The following massively unscientific results from both Google and Googlefight:-
: : : : : Don't give a monkey's ass/arse - 5,760 hits
: : : : : Don't give a monkey's uncle - 5,280 hits
: : : : : Don't give a monkey's f**k - 3,070 hits
: : : : : Don't give a monkey's butt - 2,770 hits
: : : : : Don't give a monkey's grin - 2,650 hits
: : : : : Don't give a monkey's toss - 1,180 hits
: : : : : Don't give a monkey's fart - 752 hits
: : : : : Don't give a monkey(')s with none of the other suffixed words appearing on the same page - 550 hits
: : : : : Just for comparative purposes, I append the following results too:-
: : : : : Don't give a toss - 446,000 hits
: : : : : Don't give a rat(')s ass/arse - 67,150 hits
: : : : : Don't give a (tinker's) cuss - 56,140 hits
: : : : Tinkers' cuss is probably the oldest followed
by monkey's toss, which I think started as a sailor's expression.
: : : : The coarse version - "I don't give a monkey's toss" (i.e. the ejaculate of a monkey has no value) was sanitised to the other versions in particular "uncle" and as it was widely understood just "a monkey's" which is the essence of the phrase. I think MT had currency for a long while, but more recently the shortened version has been more popular vernacular.
: : : : Modern equivalents being "a flying" as in "flying fuck" or "'kin!" which gets used to avoid offence - as in 'kin'ell! ("Fucking hell!")
: : : : I don't know how best that can be verified, but I do think that monkey's toss followed on in the spirit of tinker's cuss and then became sanitised.
: : : Apparently "flying fuck" comes to us from Kurt Vonnegut; see the link below.
: : The link being:
: That can't be. It's in dialogue in "Cannery Row."
Really? Do you remember the context by any chance, or better yet, know the page number?