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Re: "Flying F***" in Steinbeck

Posted by R. Berg on February 03, 2003

In Reply to: Re: "Flying F***": Vonnegut vs. Steinbeck posted by S. on February 03, 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?

In the 1945 Viking Press edition, the one that says "This Edition Is Produced in Full Compliance with All War Production Board Conservation Orders," it's page 91.

Near end of Chapter 14:
From up near the station . . . the watchman . . . shouted at them . . . "Don't you know you can't lay around here? You got to get off. This is private property!"
. . . At last in slow motion one of the soldiers turned his head . . . "Why don't you take a flying fuggut the moon?" he said kindly and he turned back to look at the girl.