FREEZE THE BALLS OFF A BRASS MONKEY
Tuesday November 4th, 2008
There’s absolutely no denying the fact that we’ve reached that time of year when the mornings feel cold enough to freeze the balls of a brass monkey. Ouch! It does sound painful doesn’t it? In reality if the balls were frozen off a brass monkey it could have well proved painful. That’s if you were standing too close to one when the balls fell off and broke your foot.
As with so many old sayings this one doesn’t quite translate into modern language. That’s because the phrase has nothing to with the freeze-dried emasculation of some surreal (or indeed extinct) alloy species of simian. A brass ‘monkey’ was in fact a rack used on gun ships during the Napoleonic wars to store cannon balls. When the temperature dropped to around freezing the brass would contract thus causing the cannon balls to fall onto the gun deck.
Go tell that to a Viz reader.