Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wordy Wednesday

In a recent post, I described a friend of mine as more fun than two barrels of monkeys. That got me to thinking about the expressions we use. . .and why.

Is a barrel of monkeys even fun? I don't know from personal experience but I found this on the web at quotes both the Oxford English Dictionary, which says the saying may come from "a barrel of laughs," and word historian Charles E. Funk, who wrote: "One monkey arouses a great deal of amusement. Two or more then double the...amusement. If one were to release a barrelful...of monkeys, we must suppose that their antics would become hilariously comical." We might.

Of course, monkeys aren't the only animals who end up in our language: mad as a wet hen, sick as a dog and stubborn as a donkey, come to mind. Places, too, pepper our conversations: "quicker than a New York minute" is a favorite of a friend of mine. And what about colors? I know I've been green with envy from time to time. All of these, however, I kind of get. It's phrases like "more fun than a barrel of monkeys," and "a pig in a poke," that make me wonder.

How does one get monkeys in a barrel or pigs in a poke? What is a poke, anyway??

How about you? What expressions catch your ear and why?


  1. My mom- married to a Forest Service Ranger- usually a perfectionist-would say after quickly getting something done, with not a lot of care- "good enough for government work." Never heard it anywhere else.

  2. I think a barrel of monkey could only be fun if you were a kid who didn't have to clean up after them. Anyone else would say, more destructive than a barrel of monkeys! :)