Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Cold enough...

..to freeze the balls off a brass monkey!

What a great old British saying that is!

Poor monkey!

Well, not quite.

Back in the old days of wooden warships, when Britania ruled the waves, and cannon fired iron cannon balls, these balls were stored on racks.  These racks were made of brass, and were called Monkeys.

I very cold weather, the iron cannon balls would shrink - shrink more than the brass racks did - allowing them to fall through the racks.

Hence the saying.

Oh well, it is still a good saying.

Now if the saying had been about freezing the balls off a Powder Monkey, things would be different - Powder Monkeys being the young boys who carried the gunpowder from the store room to the cannons...

6 comments:

agg79 said...

Good intel. I've used that expression before without realizing the source. There are lots of older sayings whose origins have been lost to the sands of time.

Thanks!

Margaret Benbow said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Margaret Benbow said...

A friend's old mother used to say that modern teens were "as bold as a brass monkey." She thought everything in society had gone to hell since the good old days, when parents used to beat their kids more. Good grief! :^(

terri said...

Look at you... all smart and knowing the real story behind a common saying. I never knew that!

Rock Chef said...

Agg79 - Yes, so much is lost. Even huge civilizations like the Romans left behind surprisingly little.

Margaret Benbow - From what I have seen, beaten kids are the worst ones!

Terri - And now you too can be all smart... :-)

TechnoBabe said...

A short history lesson in your post. Cool. I read this out loud to hubby and he didn't know this either.