What is up with the monkeys in the Barrel

Posted: August 27, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

“Come on Johnny we are going to have more fun than monkeys in a barrel!” I am not sure if the enthusiasm generated by the camp instructor is for me or for herself as she leads me and five other campers through the woods looking for fire wood. Her words conjure up memories for me. I am in the Day care at the local bowling alley I can’t be more than 7 or 8 years old and me and my friends, whose names I cannot for the live of me remember now or when I was on my fire wood gathering exploit, are taking plastic monkeys out of a red plastic barrel and hanging them from the underside of a table in the bowling alleys day care. After my short mental

I began to wonder about where the term barrel of monkeys comes from and I trip in the woods and never get an answer, (mostly because the pain my 12-year-old self feels replaces my wonder and later the pain is replaced at the camp fire with fear for the stories told) never until today.

Well at least that is what I thought. Finding the etymology of this term has proven to be quit an undertaking. The term has been used in print and North American vernacular since it seems the mid and even early 1800’s, but how did it first get coined? I am still unsure and still looking for the answer when I run across an amusing anecdote, explaining that on the US television show “Today” in the 1950’s the idiom more fun than a barrel of monkeys was tested. Yeah it seems a barrel full of monkeys was rolled out on stage they got out and where climbing and jumping all over the set. Just imaging this makes me chuckle a little. If you click on the link there you will be brought to the blog describing this fiasco. A comment on the blog utilizing The Oxford English Dictionary, goes into details concerning the idioms etymology by of course dissecting the statement. The job of tracking down the idioms roots is satisfactory but not really enjoyable. I was really hoping for something more like a funny story about a shop keeper who had monkeys he kept in barrels. Now that I think about it that story can be funny or creepy hmm….

I am a little disappointed at where my journey to  deciphering this gem of word play ended, but I had a great time.



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