April 23, 2014 11:24 UTC

Words and Their Stories

Hey You! Quit Monkeying Around!


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Now, the VOA Special English program Words and Their Stories.
Monkeys are very similar to us in many ways -- most have ten fingers and ten toes, and brains much like ours. We enjoy watching them because they often act like us. In fact, Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution says that monkeys and humans share a common ancestor.

Charles DarwinCharles Darwin
Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin
Songwriter William Gilbert, in the musical “Princess Ida,” wrote:
“Darwinian man, though well-behaved, at best is only a monkey shaved.”
His words -- sung to Sir Arthur Sullivan’s music -- make listeners smile. Well, monkeys make us smile, too, because they are creatures full of playful tricks.

This is why many monkey expressions are about tricky people or playful acts. One of these expressions is “monkeyshines,” meaning “tricks or foolish acts.” The meaning is clear if you have ever watched a group of monkeys playfully chasing each other -- pulling tails, stealing food, doing tricks. So, when a teacher says to a group of students “Stop those monkeyshines right now!,” you know that the boys and girls are playing instead of studying.
You might hear that same teacher warn a student not to “monkey around” with a valuable piece of equipment. You “monkey around” with something when you do not know what you are doing. You are touching or playing with something you should leave alone.
Also, you can “monkey around” when you feel like doing something, but have no firm idea of what to do. For example, you tell your friend you are going to spend the day “monkeying around” with your car. Well, you do not have any job or goal in mind -- it is just a way to pass the time.

“Monkey business” usually means secret -- maybe illegal -- activities. A news report may say there is “monkey business” involved in building the new airport, with some officials getting secret payments from builders.
You may “make a monkey out of” someone when you make that person look foolish. Some people “make a monkey out of” themselves by acting foolish or silly.

If one monkey has fun, imagine how much fun “a barrel of monkeys” can have! If your friend says he had “more fun than a barrel of monkeys” at your party, you know that he had a really good time.
“Monkey suits” are common names for clothes or uniforms soldiers wear.
In earlier years in many American cities, you would find men playing musical hand organs on the street. Dancing to the music would be the man’s small monkey dressed in a tight-fitting, colorful jacket similar to a military uniform. So, people began to call a military uniform a “monkey suit.”

This VOA Special English program Words and Their Stories was written by Marilyn Rice Christiano. Maurice Joyce was the narrator. I’m Shirley Griffith.

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Comment Sorting
by: Norah from: Vietnam
10/12/2013 1:43 PM
I've been subscribed for VOA for more than 5-6 yrs since I knew about this one. Information and stories are very well arranged and prepared to make non-natives like me easy to follow and even inspired to read. Thanks for the whole team's great effort.Great job.

by: Adrienne
10/11/2013 1:29 AM
I am a volunteer tutor in an Adult Literacy Program organized by my church. I have enjoyed using your site as reading material in our sessions. It would be helpful if I could print out the articles in a more user-friendly format, as I use these articles in print. He is not computer literate, and cannot read them on the computer. But, keep doing what you are doing. I will continue to use the site and look forward to the world news you are sharing. Thank you!

by: Cristiano from: Brazil
10/07/2013 4:48 PM
Here , in Brazil , when we say: old monkey do not put the hand in a pot; it means that old people don't make silly mistakes.

by: Sihem from: Algeria
10/07/2013 11:59 AM
Hi There
I really appreciate the content of this forum ;and I entend to use the stories and audio in my classroom , there are
some themes like ancient civilizations , ethics in business ,education in the world that I would like to find because we teach 'm in our syllabus

10/06/2013 4:56 PM
Fantastic! Darwin's theory is not that all men were monkeys once but that most monkeys have lost their tails now. The monkey expressions have hit the nails right on the head. I like watching monkeys making tricky things. Especially small children are very fond of watching them at play. Many more expressions are expected later. Thank you.

by: nora from: ksa
10/06/2013 4:13 PM
this lesson very very vrey goooood .. I like this :)

by: XuejingZhang from: China
10/06/2013 2:32 PM
This website is very useful for learning English.I'm a Chinese and leaving in the local ,but it make me know many things about America and other countries,so I am a loyal fans of VOA.
Thank you!

by: Javier Ruiz from: Yaritagua - Venezuela
10/06/2013 5:09 AM
Good subject today :-)


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