brass monkey weather
Jack Leonard: I have read that the phrase "cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey" is nautical in origin. On 19th century warships, cannonballs were stacked in a pyramid next to the cannon. Since round objects don't stack well, the lower race of cannonballs was constrained by a lipped plate -- called a monkey. On the admiral's ship, the monkey was made of brass and when it got quite cold the brass contracted enough to tumble the stack of cannonballs. My question -- why is the brass plate called a "monkey"?
Charles Hayes: The story you relate is made up to explain the saying. The saying comes from the Victorian era when English gardens were decorated with cheap imported statuary from India. The saying should be taken literally in this context. For more details see http://www.b17.com/brass.


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