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The Brass Monkey.

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by BobbyZ, Feb 13, 2012.

  1. BobbyZ

    BobbyZ Doctor of Teleocity

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    Since I brought this up in another thread I thought I would tell the story as I heard it.

    "Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey."
    A brass monkey was the thing that held cannon balls on sailing ships way back when. On very cold nights the balls would shrink and roll off.
    Some where along the line "cannon balls" got changed to just "balls".
    I don't know if this is true. Just the way I heard it on TV before the internet.
     
  2. Nick JD

    Nick JD Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Wiki says that's an urban legend.

    [​IMG]
     
  3. Jackson Jackson

    Jackson Jackson Friend of Leo's

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  4. BobbyZ

    BobbyZ Doctor of Teleocity

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    URBAN LEGEND ???

    No way I heard it before the internet on TV it has to be true and I didn't live anywhere URBAN.
    Well it could have been BS we had alot of that.:lol:
     
  5. Slowpoke

    Slowpoke Tele-Afflicted

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    You're right (Bobby Z) about the brass monkey being a brass plate. It was square and had 9 dimples in its surface that would help retain the cannon balls when stacked in a pyramid shape. During icy weather at sea the brass plate would shrink at a quicker pace than the iron cannonballs and the cannonballs would then roll off the plate. Thus the saying "Freeze the balls off a brass monkey".... Al (who knows a whole bunch about nothin' in particular)
     
  6. Bri-Sonic

    Bri-Sonic Tele-Meister

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    I always thought that was the meaning. Lots of nautical expressions have become common place - spick and span, shipshape (and Bristol fashion), square meal, pooped, chock-a-block, not enough room to swing a cat......
     
  7. BobbyZ

    BobbyZ Doctor of Teleocity

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    Sounds good to me Slowpoke. But those Myth Buster guys should check into it. Then we'd know for sure.
     
  8. Thundersleet

    Thundersleet Tele-Afflicted

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    "Freezing the Balls Off the Brass Monkey," a Navy Phrase about Cannon Balls-Fiction!

    The Truth

    According to the United States Navy Historical Center, this is a legend of the sea without historical justification. The center has researched this because of the questions it gets and says the term "brass monkey" and a vulgar reference to the effect of cold on the monkey's extremities, appears to have originated in the book "Before the Mast" by C.A. Abbey. It was said that it was so cold that it would "freeze the tail off a brass monkey." The Navy says there is no evidence that the phrase had anything to do with ships or ships with cannon balls.
     
  9. Thundersleet

    Thundersleet Tele-Afflicted

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    It is often stated that the phrase originated from the use of a brass tray, called a "monkey", to hold cannonballs on warships in the 16th to 18th centuries. Supposedly, in very cold temperatures the "monkey" would contract, causing the balls to fall off. However, nearly all historians and etymologists consider this story to be an urban legend. This story has been discredited by the U.S. Department of the Navy, etymologist Michael Quinion, and the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

    They give five main reasons:

    1 The OED does not record the term "monkey" or "brass monkey" being used in this way.
    2 The purported method of storage of cannonballs ("round shot") is simply false. Shot was not stored on deck continuously on the off-chance that the ship might go into battle. Indeed, decks were kept as clear as possible.
    3 Furthermore, such a method of storage would result in shot rolling around on deck and causing a hazard in high seas. Shot was stored on the gun or spar decks, in shot racks—longitudinal wooden planks with holes bored into them, known as shot garlands in the Royal Navy, into which round shot were inserted for ready use by the gun crew.
    4 Shot was not left exposed to the elements where it could rust. Such rust could lead to the ball not flying true or jamming in the barrel and exploding the gun. Indeed, gunners would attempt to remove as many imperfections as possible from the surfaces of balls.
    5 The physics does not stand up to scrutiny. The contraction of both balls and plate over the range of temperatures involved would not be particularly large. The effect claimed possibly could be reproduced under laboratory conditions with objects engineered to a high precision for this purpose, but it is unlikely it would ever have occurred in real life aboard a warship.
     
  10. Nick JD

    Nick JD Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Metalurgically speaking, the brass monkey's family jewels are safe.
     
  11. tlimbert65

    tlimbert65 Tele-Afflicted

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    I think that's a bar in Fort Dodge.
     
  12. fuzzbender

    fuzzbender Former Member

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    Balls. Another myth busted. Is anything true?

    Interesting, all the same.

    As a child was taken on a tour of HMS Victory and i swear the guide pointed to an open brass triangle, i think, next to a cannon and said that's how they stored the 'round shot' as they call cannonballs. Lying to children! Just checked their online shop and they're selling these!:

    [​IMG]


    "HMS Victory Copper Cannonball Stack

    Price: £29.16 (Excluding VAT at 20%)

    Chunky copper paperweight cast from melted down copper rivets and sheathing plates salvaged from HMS Victory. The design represents a "brass monkey" on which iron cannonballs were held ready for action. In cold weather the expansion and contraction on brass would be different from that of iron, so that the cannonballs would not freeze onto the tray unless it was intensely cold - hence the expression "cold enough to freeze the balls on a brass monkey". It incorporated the Ministry of Defence "approved product" arrow of the early 19th century.

    Measures 2"x2"x2½". Average weight 600gm"

    Yet elsewhere on their site they say:

    "Shot garlands: Used in addition to the racks by the hatchways, these comprised a circlet of rope laid flat on the deck which could hold one or two round shot ready for use".

    Commerce wins out. Can only assume the pyramid stack things are purely for display purposes.


    Nice racks make much more sense:

    HMS Victory:

    [​IMG]

    'Round-shot Rack, HMS Warrior'
    [​IMG]

    USS Constitution 'cannon shot stored in racks amidships this was temporary storage':
    [​IMG]

    Thanks Thundersleet, for correcting a long held fib. Yet after such mental scarring i don't think i believe anyone anymore :lol:

    Ten pin bowling anyone?
     
  13. PaddyWagon

    PaddyWagon Tele-Meister

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    I'm waiting for the etymologists to actually come out and explain just where DID the phrase come from instead of wasting their time debunking. Academicians, pfui.
     
  14. BobbyZ

    BobbyZ Doctor of Teleocity

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    Somewhere right now there is a bunny laying candy eggs. Right ?

    What next Henry Ford didn't invent cars.
     
  15. Nick JD

    Nick JD Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    I think some sayings origins might well be the old drunk crazy guy with no teeth on the streets of a big town.

    I'm pretty sure a friend of mine invented the name, "Poo Tickets" for toilet paper.
     
  16. Tonemaster

    Tonemaster Tele-Afflicted

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    Slow newz day lads?

    t.
     
  17. Buckocaster51

    Buckocaster51 Super Moderator Staff Member Ad Free Member

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  18. Nick JD

    Nick JD Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Monkey Wrench is also from the same etymologicial origin.

    The World English Dictionary gives a nautical definition for monkey, as a modifier "denoting a small light structure or piece of equipment contrived to suit an immediate purpose: a monkey foresail ; a monkey bridge."
     
  19. Guitarzan

    Guitarzan Poster Extraordinaire

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    Now that the brass monkey lore has been cleared up, we can discuss the head rail and why mariners call the toilet a head. And how the poop deck got its name.
     
  20. fuzzbender

    fuzzbender Former Member

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    Can anyone explain Hornblower?
     
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