Posted by ESC on May 16, 2000
In Reply to: Monkey's uncle posted by Puzzled of Penzance on May 16, 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.
In my opinion, both the Biblical/Genesis account of creation and the scientific/evolutionary theory have us coming from the dust of the Earth. I'm a Bible-thumping Christian and I've never had any problem with the idea that life came from the elements then evolved into more complex creatures. The thought of having a crustacean cousin or a monkey nephew doesn't trouble me a bit.