Brass Monkeys, Lewd Sayings and Urban Legends
There are a number of sites around which retell a piece of naval history. For instance this one on myspace:
It was necessary to keep a good supply of cannonballs near the cannon on war ships. But how to prevent them from rolling about the deck was the problem. 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.
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