Definition: Silliness or mischieviousness
Example: ‘Hey! You two! No more monkey business from either of you!’ Johnny and Jackie’s nanny was not enjoying being tied to a tree.
People have been described in terms of animal traits for as long as pen has been put to paper. Foxes for slyness, lions for bravery, and monkeys, lots of monkeys. It seems fairly apparent why monkeys are equated with silly antics. But when and where did it enter the English language?
There do seem to be several theories:
- Firstly, it may be a by-product of the English colonial era in India. Bandrami is a Bengali term for naughty or reckless behaviour by children, child-like behaviour by adults, or monkey like gestures. It altered into the more literal ‘monkey business’ in the 1830s as it was absorbed into English..
- A second theory proposes that it grew out of a related phrase ‘monkeyshines‘ which meant disreputable behaviour, coined at about the same time in America. It was basically a racist taunt aimed at slaves.
- Lastly, perhaps it grew from an even earlier UK phrase ‘monkey tricks‘ used in the same way to describe foolish behaviour from children.
Never mind the origin, Iddy’s more concerned that he has found the reason for the recent problems on Wall Street.
Iddy’s back after a break, starting with this one for Olivia and her Middle School class who are studying animal based idioms… what better place to start than Crocodile Tears?
Definition: A fake or insincere demonstration of sorrow
Example: Belinda shed crocodile tears at Bernie’s funeral. After all, she’d been the one who had shot him.
Can crocodiles cry?
The idiom comes from an ancient belief that crocodiles cried when devouring their prey. A very strange concept; remorseful reptiles! The phrase reached the English language at the beginning of the 15th century, but in the form of crocodiles ‘weeping’. It was another hundred years before our current phrasing began to appear.
So back to our question. Do they cry? Apparently they do, but not from emotion. Certainly not from remorse. Iddy was surprised that crocodiles have tear ducts at all. Seems a bit redundant for a creature that lives in the water. But it is for that very reason that they do have tears. When they do venture from those waters, their eyes tend to dry out, and so the need for tears.
Having established that they do indeed shed tears, a neurologist decided to go one step further in 2006. He observed caimans while they fed at a refuge in Florida. Closely related to their larger counterparts, several of them did ‘cry’ while feeding, though the actual reason is still debated. However, not a single scientist came forward and claimed it was remorse.
There is a rare medical condition, Bogorad’s syndrome, which causes people to shed tears while they eat. Unsurprisingly, it is sometimes referred to as ‘Crocodile Tears Syndrome’.