Pat Shingleton Column

"The Brass Monkey Alert..."

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Posted: Jun 13, 2012 8:48 PM by Pat Shingleton
Updated: Jun 25, 2012 3:00 AM

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Early war ships were equipped with iron cannon balls, stacked next to the cannons. As noted in a previous column, a method was devised to stack 30 cannon balls in a "pyramid" configuration with 16 balls on the bottom to one on top. The design saved space however the movement of the ship sent the balls rolling and sometimes overboard. The solution was a metal plate called a "Monkey" that included 16 round indentations. To prevent the iron balls from rusting, the "Monkey" was unfortunately made of brass which contracts faster than iron in cold weather. When below freezing conditions occurred, the brass indentations shrunk and the iron cannonballs would lift off the "Monkey." Thus the expression, "its cold enough to freeze the (expletive deleted) off the Brass Monkey."

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