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Monkey business

Posted by Victoria S Dennis on April 23, 2011 at 07:42

In Reply to: Monkey business posted by Rida on April 22, 2011 at 16:02:

: Is there a difference between 'monkey tricks' and 'monkey business'? What is the origin of both? Cheers.

‘Monkey tricks’ is by far the older of the two: the first citation in the OED (which defines it as ‘a mischievous, foolish, or underhand trick or act; an antic; usu. in plural’ is from 1653: “Bringe it [sc. a colt] with you in your coach, and then she will teach it all her Monkey tricks”.

The OED defines ‘monkey business’ as ‘Mischief, trickery; fooling around’ and says it is a US coinage but a calque on a Sanskrit phrase: the earliest citation is from 1858: “The Native Indian term for the supreme of folly, is ‘monkey business’. (‘Native Indian’ here means ‘native to India’.