Posted by Puzzled of Penzance on May 16, 2000
In Reply to: Monkey's uncle posted by Sharyn Finnegan on May 15, 2000
: : : "Well I'll be a monkey's uncle"
: : The Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, Volume 2, H-O by J.E. Lighter has "monkey's uncle - n. (used in mild oaths and expressions of surprise). 1926 Maines & Grant 'Wise-Crack Dict.' Be a monkey's uncle. Be surprised..."
: : I am guessing that the expression started in connection with an incorrect interpretation that Darwin's theory of evolution states that man is descended from monkeys. (Rather than man and monkey had a common ancestor.)
: ESC thank you very much for taking the time to answer. I think your guess as to this derivation is a very good one.
I've sometimes wondered about the descent of man and your explanation that neatly separated man from monkeys is interesting in that it pre-supposes the ancestor of the monkey was other than a monkey and the ancestor of man was other than man.
Just suppose that this common ancestor was either man or monkey and you're back to the problem of unacceptable ancestors or descendants. But what if the ancestor was neither: is this more acceptable?
A photo of a staid crustacean in the family album may give rise to marital disagreement on the cause of child misbehaviour if the old crusty is on your side of the family.
Just a thought.