What’s the undisputed favourite topic of conversation among prairie folk like us? Why the weather of course. February was a very cold month and when I would ask, “Cold enough for you, eh”. Some would answer with an old expression we used to think was vulgar. But back in the days of sailing ships it was necessary to keep a good supply of cannon balls close to the ship’s cannons. However, how to prevent them from rolling around was a problem.
They were stacked as a square-based pyramid, one ball on top resting on four which rested on nine which rested on sixteen, so a supply of 30 cannon balls could be stacked next to a cannon. The challenge was how to prevent the bottom layer from sliding or rolling out from under the others. The solution was a metal plate with 16 indentations they called a monkey. But if the monkey was made of iron the cannonballs would rust to it so they made them out of brass. Brass contracts much more and much faster than iron when chilled. Consequently, when the temperature dropped too far the iron cannonballs would come right off the monkey. It would be quite literally cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey. And now you know that isn’t a vulgar expression at all.