You may have laughed and joked at the above quotation, but do you really know its origin?

In Nelson's day, it was necessary to keep a good supply of cannon balls near the cannon on warships. But the problem was how to prevent them rolling about the deck.

The best storage method devised was to stack them as a square based pyramid with one ball on top resting on four, resting on nine, which rested on sixteen. Thus a supply of 30 cannon balls could be stacked in a small area right next to the cannon. There was only one problem - how to prevent the bottom layer from sliding/rolling from under the others.

The solution was a metal plate with 16 round indentations, called a Monkey, but if this plate was made of iron, the iron balls would quickly rust to it.

The solution to the rusting problem was to make Brass Monkeys. Few landlubbers realise that brass contracts much more and much faster than iron when chilled. Consequently, when the temperature dropped too far. the brass indentations would shrink so much that the iron cannon balls would roll right off the Monkey.

Thus it was quite literally, 'cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey'.

Shame on you who thought differently.