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
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!