Is a barrel of monkeys even fun? I don’t know from personal experience but I found this on the web at ask.yahoo.com: About.com 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?