Have you noticed in the past few years that monkeys have made a come back? They are everywhere you look. Children's clothes, bumper pads and backpacks can all be found sporting the likeness of these cute little primates. I, myself, can remember having a few monkeys in my childhood as well. Seeing all of these monkeys got me to thinking about these funny little creatures...and also a few catch phrases referring to monkeys.
When I was a little girl, I had two stuffed monkeys. And those of you from my era may have had these same monkeys too. One was small and red and the other was large and black; both had bananas for thumbs that you could stick in their mouths. I drug those things around like other little girls would their baby dolls. Another toy that I LOVED playing with was my Barrel of Monkeys. I mentioned this to Ryan one day and he said, "Yea, I never really understood the Barrel of Monkeys." Hmmm...I guess it WAS a different era, because I can remember sitting on the rug in front of our fireplace, stringing those little monkeys together for long periods of time. Oh well, I also thought playing with Silly Putty and Jacks was fun too.
While reminiscing about how much fun it was playing with my toy monkeys, I began to wonder why monkeys were used in a number of catch phrases. For instance, have you ever heard someone tell their children to "Quit monkeying around!"? What were those children doing anyway? One can only assume that they were acting silly and thus being compared to monkeys. I suppose that is because all monkeys do all day long is swing by their tails and make funny faces and noises. And then, there is that phrase that refers to a mechanic as a "Grease Monkey". Why? I don't understand how a mechanic is ANYTHING like a monkey. OK...so, maybe if he gets all dirty, he looks dark like a monkey??? And what about that "Monkey Wrench" he uses to fix things? These phrases had me confused so I decided to do a little research on the topic of "monkey phrases". And THIS is what I found out: That person that many refer to as a "grease monkey" was usually a young boy who, years ago, would climb up in the rafters to grease all of the pulleys and belts that ran the equipment in a blacksmith or machine shop. I suppose him shimmying up into those rafters was likened to a money climbing up a tree...now THAT finally made sense to me. But what about that "monkey wrench"? I even looked at the wrench to see if perhaps it resembled a monkey in some way (hey...I was trying to figure this thing out on my own). What I found was that Charles Monckey invented the "monkey wrench" and ...yep, you've got it! People wrongly called it "monkey", thus the "monkey wrench". Well, "I'll be a monkey's uncle"...I was finally beginning to understand what some of this monkey business was all about. Oh...OK, you're wondering about the "monkey's uncle" phrase now? It seems that this phase dates all the way back to 1871, when Charles Darwin's book, "The Descent of Man" came out. People were appalled at the idea of a monkey being their distant relative. In making fun of Darwin's book, many people began to jokingly refer to themselves and others as a "monkey's uncle"!
I realize that I have taken this "monkey business" WAY over the top, but it was just one of those things that had been niggling at the edge of my mind for a while (like a "caged monkey"...). So, the next time you see these cute little primates around, whether it be a real one at the zoo or an imprinted one on merchandise, you can say...I KNOW what all this "monkey business" is about and it makes me wonder what sort of "monkeyshine" those little rascals are up to now!