Posts Tagged ‘Stupid Stories Sailors Say’

“Cold Enough to Freeze the Balls off a Brass Monkey” ..? Myth or Truth ?

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

“It’s so cold, it’d freeze the balls off a Brass Monkey”, is about cannon balls on a old sailing ship ??
NO ! Totally False !

This Silly Old Yarn … Keeps Popping up, it seems, any time sailors gather
It’s NOT true..
It’s been so widely quoted in recent publications, that the U.S. Navy Historical group has published a statement saying that the story has no foundation in truth.

Why is the story so patently wrong?
The facts show that there are several problems with the Brass Monkey Myth.

First …. There’s no such device made of brass.
There are NO references to “Brass Monkey’ in any historical nautical reference book available. There are no words even close to it..
The myth has appeared in a few modern “Sailor’s Words” books, but, in those publications, they are simply repeating what they’ve heard. Or, it’s been a “Cut and Paste” addition.
No research was done, by them, or anyone, apparently, to find the truth.
Therefore.. One can Assume it never existed as a nautical term…

Second….. The device that held ammunition on board was most likely made of ROPE.
Sometimes it was wood.. A BRASS device would unlikely be on the decks
of a fighting ship. Brass would have been a poor choice because of upkeep.. Bronze maybe but
not Brass.. Unlikely that ANY kind of metal device held SHOT.
In fact the shipboard term for ” Shot Holders” was primarily called “GARLAND”
Sometimes the term Grommet may have been used. The word MONKEY? Never !

Next…. No Pile of projectiles would have been left on a Garland before a battle. Any such item would have been brought out of a “Locker” and placed in readiness as the battle began.

Lastly, and probably the most damning of the Untruths…
Ammunition aboard those vessels was called either ..”Bombs”or “Shells”if they exploded on the target.
The other ammunition was called …”SHOT” if it didn’t explode..
SHOT hit solid objects to destroy them by shear weight or shape of it.

There was.. Round Shot, Bar Shot, Chain Shot, Case Shot, Cross Bar Shot,
Langrel Shot… Each type used to fit the need or requirements of battle. Round shot Pounded a hull, Bar and Chain to rip down rigging, other types of SHOT, as Anti-personnel weapons. If you were standing on deck .. Small Shot… was used in hand held guns..such as Swivel guns, pistols, muskets and later, rifles
A proper sailor would only say “shot” Never …. Cannon BALLS …

So the story one might use to indicate a low temperature…would REALLY have to be…
” It was cold enough to freeze the…. (fill in type)… Shot off a …Garland “ :

Kind of looses something in the translation Doesn’t it… ?