road monkey (antedating 1885 Feb 24) brush monkey (1885 Feb 24)

William Palmer palmerwil at GMAIL.COM
Sat Jan 22 11:18:43 UTC 2011

In the days of wooden ships and iron men, crew members who shuttled back and
forth bringing gunpowder from the magazine to the gun deck,  were known as
"powder monkeys". Usually young boys, because of their agility and speed.

Bill Palmer

On Fri, Jan 21, 2011 at 10:00 PM, Garson O'Toole
<adsgarsonotoole at>wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Garson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      road monkey (antedating 1885 Feb 24) brush monkey (1885 Feb
> 24)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> OED (Third edition, August 2010; online version November 2010)
> contains an entry for "road monkey" with a first cite in 1891:
> road monkey n. N. Amer. colloq. now hist. a person who repairs logging
> roads.
> 1891    Fort Wayne (Indiana) Sentinel 3 Jan.,  The road monkeys are
> stationed at the steep inclines along the winter roadways over which
> the heavy loads of logs are hauled.
> An 1885 article in a Michigan newspaper discusses the vocabulary used
> by loggers in lumber camps and includes the terms "road monkey" and
> "brush monkey". I could not find "brush monkey" in the OED.  There is
> a match for the term "road monkey" somewhere in the Random House
> Historical Dictionary of American Slang according to Google Books, but
> there is no preview, and I could not find it as a boldface term under
> "monkey" in the paper H-O volume. Entries under "road" are of course
> unavailable.
> Cite: 1885 February 24, Muskegon Chronicle, Among the Loggers, Page 3,
> Column 3, Muskegon, Michigan. (GenealogyBank)
> It is about a mile and a half from the shanty to where the pine is now
> being cut. One man notches a tree, and two others cut it down. It is
> then cut into proper lengths. The "brush monkeys" make a road to the
> logs, and the skidders roll the logs upon skids ready for hauling. ...
> The "road monkey" is a curious individual whose business it is to keep
> the road in good condition for travel.
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

Bill Palmer
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919-593-5195 (Mobile)

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