Posted by Lewis on March 24, 2003
In Reply to: Re: Monkey off my back posted by R. Berg on March 19, 2003
: : Where did
the phrase "monkey on/off my back" originate?
: : Please help, it's driving me insane....
: Dictionary of American Slang, 1960:
: "monkey on [one's[ back" Drug addiction, considered as a financial, physical, mental, and moral responsibility; the drug habit; lit., a strong addiction that one spends most of one's energy to support. --Common addict use, now universally known. When without drugs an addict feels weighted down and depressed, when buying drugs an addict is supporting pushers and his drug habit, thus, fig., the addict carries an extra burden; it may be a large or small monkey--some have a $100-a-day monkey. Perhaps based on the obs. "have a turkey on one's back."
I also heard it as a police expression - something to do with unwelcome responsibility being like a "monkey on the shoulder" or on the back - presumably being used because of the clinging nature of monkeys and also that it sometimes makes the person lumbered look foolish.