Monkey dish

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Thu Aug 16 19:40:20 UTC 2001

>Is anyone familiar with the expression 'monkey dish' (apparently used to
>refer to a dish or platter used for appetizers) who might have some
>information on its etymology?  I've consulted a variety of dictionaries,
>including the OED and DARE, to no avail.

I couldn't find anything authoritative.

Here's a conjecture. There is a small bowl called a ramekin; here are some
pictures of ramekins:

Usually these are almost cylindrical. The word "ramekin" is more obscure
than the item to which it refers. So the small cylindrical bowl might have
been called a "monkey dish" -- named after the cylindrical cap used as a
begging bowl by an organ-grinder's monkey in a cartoon. Then the expression
might have been generalized to mean "small bowl" in restaurant jargon,
since ramekins are often used about the same as other small bowls (and in
fact "ramekin" sometimes is used for those other small dishes too).

-- Doug Wilson

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