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Balls of a Brass Monkey

history lesson:

In the heyday of the Sailing ship, every ship had to have cannon for protection. Cannon of the times required round iron cannon balls.
The master wanted to store
the cannonballs such that they could be of instant use when needed, yet not roll around the gun deck. The solution was to stack them
in a square-based pyramid next to the cannon. The top level of the stack had one ball, the next level down had four, the next had nine,
the next had 16, and so on. Four levels would provide a stack of 30 cannonballs.

The only real problem was how to keep the bottom level from sliding out
from under the weight of the higher levels. To do this, they devised a
small plate ("monkey") with one rounded indentation for each cannonball in the
bottom layer. When iron was used to make this plate ("monkey") the
cannonballs would rust to the plate. As a result, these plates were made
of brass to prevent this problem-thus the "brass monkey."

When temperature falls, brass contracts in size faster than iron. As it
got cold on the gun decks, the indentations in the brass monkey would get smaller than the iron cannonballs they were holding. If the
temperature got cold enough, the bottom layer would pop out of the indentations spilling the entire pyramid
over the deck.

Thus it was, quite literally, "COLD ENOUGH TO FREEZE THE BALLS OFF A
BRASS MONKEY." And all this time some of you thought we were talking dirty
 

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That isn't what we meant when we found ourselves at Chosin Reservoir near Christmas of 1950, laddie buck! We meant an actual diminutive brass simian. Even Garands froze up and failed to function, though they were the last infantry weapon to do so. Thank Gawd that bayonets and BAR stocks don't have any moving parts.
 
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