"It's cold enough to freeze the balls off a Brass Monkey."

Northern Britain and Scotland are in the grip of ice and snow, so it seems like a good time to talk about the expression "brass monkey weather". This idiom is used to indicate that the weather is very cold:
It's brass monkey weather today, isn't it!

This usage stems from a longer phrase: It's cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey. This is generally perceived as a humorous reference to some unfortunate brass monkey who loses his testicles if the weather is too cold. However, as The Guardian reports, the phrase has quite another origin:

During Nelson's time, a brass monkey was a triangle of brass attached to the ship's deck. Cannonballs were stacked in a pyramid on the brass monkey to stop them from rolling loose. Brass, like all metals, contracts as it gets colder. When the temperature was sufficiently cold for the brass to contract enough, the cannonballs would escape from their confinement.

So the expression has nothing to do with monkeys or testicles, just basic science!

image

A real brass monkey with cannonballs

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