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Phrases And Their Origins

Freeze The Balls Off A Brass Monkey

This is an expression which is used to remark upon particularly cold weather. "Brrr! It's cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey!" is what we say in these conditions.

But are we really talking about testicles and monkeys made of brass? Why not "It's cold enough to freeze the arse off a tin lizard"? Or is there some sound historical reason why we have this phrase?

There's a tin a Brasso for the best answer.



Well brass is quite tough, right? And monkies are cheeky, right? And balls are extremities, as are breasts, right? So you could say "I'm freezing my bastard tits off," or "I'm freezing me fucking bollocks off," right? BUT if you use the brass monkey instead you
(a) don't have to use the obligatory expletive adjective, thus saving yourself from a tongue lashing from your grandma*
(b) Emphasising just how bastard cold it really is because it really would take a lot of cold to freeze anything off a brass anything and
(c) well, everyone likes a monkey, right?

* Of course, some people actually LIKE to be tongue lashed by old people, but I'm not pointing any fingers.


I seem to remember it had something to do with pawn shop signs or something. In extemely cold weather the sticky out bits of the brass sign used to crack (due to inherent casting flaws no doubt and the quality of the brass) and fall off.



There is a common mis-conception that this is to do with cannonballs on ships, this is hogwash and tomfoolery The old rag and bone men that used to ride round the streets of Canning Town searching for 'any old iron' (an obvious form of cottaging) were called 'brass monkeys' on acccount of their penchant for this popular metal. They used to melt it down and make tiaras out of it which they would show off with pride at the Sunday tea dance. These ra ra skirt wearing woofters would leap around doing the 'gay gordon' and with their hairy legs would remind the startled (and often interfered with) onlookers of monkeys.

Once the east end gangs came about, with those popular hardnut repressed homo brothers, They managed to strike a deal with these Brass Monkeys to aid them in their transformation into womanhood, they swapped their valuable tiara collection for a bucket of liquid nitrogen.

Phrases And Their Origins

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