Monkey's uncle

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The term monkey's uncle, most notably seen in the idiom "(well) I'll be a monkey's uncle", is used to express complete surprise, amazement or disbelief.[1] It can also be used to acknowledge the impossibility of a situation, in the same way that "pigs might fly" is used. An example is if one says: "I may agree that if two plus two equals five, then I am a monkey's uncle".

The phrase was used as early as 1917, in an El Paso, Texas newspaper advertisement for a play called The Brass Monkey.[2] It appeared in newspapers several times in the early 1920s, including several other examples in advertisements.[3][4] It was originally a sarcastic remark made by creationists.[5] The notion "that [people] were descended from apes was considered Darwin's contemporaries", and it was for this reason that the sarcastic phrase came into use.[6]

Michael Quinion notes that the phrase "Monkey's uncle" occurs in a parody of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's 1855 poem The Song of Hiawatha which was reprinted in James Parton's 1881 The Humorous Poetry of the English Language, and observes: "This may be just an accident of invention, but the date fits".[7] The Monkey's Uncle is a 1965 Walt Disney movie, with the title song written by the Sherman Brothers and performed by Annette Funicello and the Beach Boys. On their 2003 album Reel to Real, The Selecter included a song titled "Monkey's Uncle", criticizing religious dogma that contradicts scientific evidence. I'm a Monkey's Uncle is the title of a 1948 Three Stooges short film.

In the MMORPG RuneScape, asking the merchant Zeke about purchasing a dragon scimitar will result in the line of dialogue "Seriously, you'll be a monkey's uncle before you'll ever hold a dragon scimitar." In a humorous twist, purchasing and wielding a dragon scimitar requires completing the quest "Monkey Madness", in which the player must take on the role of an actual monkey's uncle.[8]


  1. ^ "I'll be a monkey's uncle!". Retrieved 2019-01-09.
  2. ^ "The New Hoyt Comedy ...... A Brass Monkey". El Paso Herald. 31 July 1917. p. 2. Retrieved 3 Apr 2021. 'Well. I'm a monkey's uncle. Who ever heard of a brass monkey? There haint no sich animal!' Oh, yes there is!{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ "Piano sale [Advertisement]". Lexington Herald-Leader. Lexington, KY. 24 Sep 1922. p. 16. Retrieved 3 Apr 2021. I'm a monkey's uncle if I ever heard of such bargains before.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ "[Hub Realty Company advertisement]". Los Angeles Evening Express. 7 Feb 1924. p. 27. Retrieved 3 Apr 2021. I'm a monkey's uncle if this does not save you $1000{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ "A Monkey's Uncle". h2g2. Retrieved 2019-01-09.
  6. ^ Arden, John Boghosian (1998). Science, Theology, and Consciousness: The Search for Unity. Praeger. ISBN 9780275960322.
  7. ^ Quinion, Michael (1 January 2005). "Monkey's Uncle". World Wide Words. Retrieved 2019-01-09.
  8. ^ "Dragon scimitar". RuneScape Wiki. Retrieved 2021-08-27.