Brass monkey

Posted by WWII Pilot - Nome de Guerre on April 19, 2000

In Reply to: Brass monkey posted by ESC on April 18, 2000

: : : : : Does anyone know what the Beastie Boys are singing about in Brass Monkey? I confess, to this day, I have no idea - it came up in conversation the other day, and I just smiled and played along. Thanks for the help!

: : : : If you'll type in "monkey" on the Search for a Phrase page, you'll find the phrase "cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey." It says:

: : : : "Of naval origin. The brass rails that held stacks of cannon balls on ships were called monkeys. When it was very cold the monkeys contracted and the balls fell off."

: : : : But I still wouldn't say this expression in front of the preacher and his wife.

: : : ESC is quite right about the preacher. Here's a bit more detail:

: : : Monkey: It's cold enough to freeze the balls from a brass monkey is an expression with slightly genital overtones used to describe very cold weather. The truth is quite different. In the old wooden Men-of-War the powder was taken from the powder magazine to the gun decks by young boys. These boys were frequently orphans or waifs taken off the streets. The passages and stairs along which they carried the powder were so narrow that only boys, and not men, could get through. They were known as "powder monkeys"; the cannon balls were stored in brass rings near the guns themselves. By analogy these rings were called "brass monkeys". On cold days they would contract with the result that the cannon balls would be squeezed out of the ring - hence the saying.

: : The story of the brass rings and the cannon balls is simply not true. It's s fabrication, a lie, an untruth, a fib, a misleading statement, a tall tale to mislead the gullible. Shall I continue?

: : Of 'facts' such as these are urban myths constructed and a comfortable warm feeling of knowing something of interest is spread amongst that percentage of the population which fills the gap between the totally illiterate and the professionals.

: Well, beats me. This is like the phrase "balls to the wall." It's been said that the balls in question are on an airplane's controls and are not anatomical references. But I still wouldn't use that expression unless I'm among friends.

: Here's a euphemism for "cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey." "Monkey-freezing" weather.

Nice try, but I've never hear the expression and certainly don't believe it emanates from the controls of an aircraft. More likely invented by some hoary swain who was referring to some action undertaken by his anatomical apparatus. I'd never use it even when with friends. If it were more impressive I might shout it at someone I didn't like; but then again that, would be a first as I'm not given to anger and the exchange of gratuitous insults.