[Northkeep] Did you know where these expressions came from?

Hugh & Belinda Niewoehner BurgBorrendohl at valornet.com
Mon Feb 13 05:42:02 PST 2012

Don't know about the rest, but in response to this one, I found the 

It has often been claimed that the "brass monkey" was a holder or 
storage rack in which cannon balls (or shot) were stacked on a ship. 
Supposedly when the "monkey" with its stack of cannon ball became cold, 
the contraction of iron cannon balls led to the balls falling through or 
off of the "monkey." This explanation appears to be a legend of the sea 
without historical justification. In actuality, ready service shot was 
kept on the gun or spar decks in shot racks (also known as shot garlands 
in the Royal Navy) which consisted of longitudinal wooden planks with 
holes bored into them, into which round shot (cannon balls) were 
inserted for ready use by the gun crew. These shot racks or garlands are 
discussed in: Longridge, C. Nepean. /The Anatomy of Nelson's Ships/. 
(Annapolis MD: Naval Institute Press, 1981): 64. A top view of shot 
garlands on the upper deck of a ship-of-the-line is depicted in /The 
Visual Dictionary of Ships and Sailing/. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 
1991): 17.


On 2/13/2012 6:31 AM, Shirley Hackworth wrote:
> Consequently, when the temperature dropped too far, the brass
> indentations would shrink so much that the iron cannonballs would come right
> off the monkey; Thus, it was quite literally, 'Cold enough to freeze the
> balls off a brass monkey.' (All this time, you thought that was an improper
> expression, didn't you.)

More information about the Northkeep mailing list