Freeze The Balls Off A Brass Monkey

The saying “it’s so cold out there it could freeze the balls off a brass monkey” came from when they had old cannons like ones used in the Civil War. The cannonballs were stacked in a pyramid formation, called a brass monkey. When it got extremely cold outside they would crack and break off… thus the saying.

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9 thoughts on “Freeze The Balls Off A Brass Monkey

  1. This isn’t necessarily true. The “brass monkey” was the plate, made of brass, that the cannon balls sat on.

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

    bullet Summary of the eRumor
    This piece of alleged history explains that in the olden days of sailing ships, cannon balls were stacked on the decks on brass plates called “monkeys.” The plates had indentions in them that held the balls on the bottoms of the stacks. Brass, however, expands and contracts with the temperature and if it got cold enough, the cannon balls could fall…giving real foundation to the phrase “cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey!”
    bullet 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.
    A real example of the eRumor as it has appeared on the Internet:

    Subject: brass monkey

    In the heyday of sailing ships, all war ships and many freighters
    carried iron cannons. Those cannon fired round iron cannon balls. It was
    necessary to keep a good supply near the cannon. But how to prevent them
    from rolling about the deck?
    The best storage method devised was a square based pyramid with one
    ball on top, resting on four resting on nine which rested on sixteen.
    Thus, a supply of thirty cannon balls could be stacked in a small area
    right next to the cannon.
    There was only one problem — how to prevent the bottom layer from
    sliding/rolling from under the others. The solution was a metal plate
    called a “Monkey” with sixteen round indentations. But, if this plate
    was made of iron, the iron balls would quickly rust to it. The solution
    to the rusting problem was to make “Brass Monkeys.”
    Few landlubbers realize that brass contracts much more and much
    faster than iron when chilled. Consequently, when the temperature dropped
    too far, the brass indentations would shrink so much that the iron cannon
    balls would come right off the monkey. Thus, it was quite literally,
    “Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey!”

  2. the guy who wrote like 2 billion words on a balls of a metal monkey really needs to get a life

  3. I heard it was originally a pub saying from old England, before it got coined in that book. The publican had crafted a brass monkey statue to sit above his door. To emphasize the masculinity of drinking a brew, the publican ordered the brass monkey to be made holding a large cup and sporting a fair sized set of male junk, balls and all.

    On particularly cold occasions, the pub established an in-house joke; that the cold could “freeze the balls of the brass monkey”. Of, not off.
    In those cold temperatures the patrons could also step outside and spit their beer at the brass monkey balls, when it was cold enough the beer spit would freeze to the statue on contact. This was how they knew it was very cold, like a laymans thermometer, as it would have to be far below freezing for the beer spit to freeze on contact.

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