Watch me monkey around in a monkey suit while teaching you monkey idioms. We have idioms for just about everything in American English!
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In this American English pronunciation video, we’re going to monkey around. Just kidding. That means to waste time. We’re not going to waste time. We’re going to learn monkey idioms!
To begin, let’s go over the pronunciation of the word ‘monkey’. This is a two-syllable word with stress on the first syllable. DA-da, monkey. It begins with the M consonant sound, where the lips come together. MMmmmo-. Then we have the UH as in BUTTER sound. This is a completely relaxed sound. So, your tongue should be forward and relaxed, uh, uh, a little bit of jaw drop, and your lips should be completely relaxed. MMmmmo-. Because this is a stressed syllable, it should have the up-down shape of a stressed syllable in the voice. Mo-, mon-. Now we have the NG sound. The reason why the letter N is representing the NG sound is because the next sound is the K, and they’re made in the same spot. So, to make the NG sound, the tongue tip is here, touching behind the bottom front teeth, and the back part of the tongue reaches up and touches the soft palate. The soft palate is lowered here because it’s a nasal consonant, ng, ng-k. Then, to make the K, you just release the tongue down, monk-, -k-. The soft palate will close for that. Then we go into the EE as in SHE vowel. Monkey. Since it’s in an unstressed syllable, it should be very short and low in pitch, -key, -key, -key. Monkey.
Let’s get into some idioms. First, ‘fun as a barrel of monkeys’. This means something that’s really fun, kind of like this video. But I usually use it sarcastically, which means that I am explaining something that is not at all fun. For example, I’m going to the dentist to have a cavity filled. Fun as a barrel of monkeys. The stress pattern for this phrase is DA-da-da-DA-da. Barrel of monkeys. So, in many cases we’ll reduce the word ‘of’ to just have the schwa sound, no consonant at all. Barrel of, DA-da-da, Barrel of. Barrel of monkeys. Now here we’re making ‘monkey’ plural, so the S will be a Z sound, zz, because the sound before was a vowel. Monkeys, monkeys. So just a very quick, soft Z sound at the end there. Barrel of monkeys.
Monkey business. This can mean silliness. So you might say to a room full of rowdy kids, ‘Enough with the monkey business’. But, it can also mean dishonest behavior. Monkey business. DA-da-DA-da. So, the first syllable of ‘business’ is also stressed. This stressed syllable has the IH as in SIT vowel, bu-, bu-, and the first S here represents the Z sound. Bus-, business. The second syllable, since it’s unstressed, should be very quick, -ness, -ness, -ness. Business. Monkey business.
Monkey suit. That’s what I’m wearing! That’s the literal meaning. But there’s also an idiomatic meaning, and that’s a tuxedo or other formal evening wear for men. Monkey suit. DA-da-da. Monkey suit. So, the word ‘suit’ has the S consonant sound. The letters U-I represent the OO as in BOO vowel, and we finish with a Stop T. Monkey suit, monkey suit.
Monkey on my back. This is a problem or something that’s really stressful that’s taking a long time to resolve or won’t go away. For example, my friend is going through a nasty divorce. It’s a monkey on his back. The stress pattern is DA-da-da-da-DA. Monkey on his back. So, ‘back’ is stressed. The words ‘on’, and the next function word, whether it’s ‘my’, ‘your’, ‘his’, or ‘her’, will be unstressed. So, ‘on my’, ‘on my’, those two words will be really quick, low in pitch, and not too clear, on my, on my. Or, it could be ‘on your’, ‘on your’. Notice I’m reducing the word ‘your’ to ‘yer’. We’ve already made a video about that, so check it out. ‘On his’ or ‘on her’. In both of those cases, we’ll probably drop the H. On his, on his, monkey on his back. Or, on her, on her, monkey on her back. Check out this video on Dropping the H Reductions.
Have you ever heard someone say “I’m going to go ape.” That means to get really angry. For example, if she screws up my car, I’m going to go ape. Both ‘go’ and ‘ape’ are stressed, so the stress pattern is DA-DA. Go ape. We have the G consonant sound and the OH as in NO diphthong. Sometimes my students don’t round their lips enough for the second half of this diphthong, go, go, so make sure you do that. Ape. It begins with the AY as in SAY diphthong. Make sure you drop your jaw enough for the first sound of that diphthong, a-, a-pe. And finally, the P sound, ape. Go ape.
There are more idioms that use the word ‘monkey’. Can you think of them? If so, put them in the comments below. If you liked this video, check out my video on horse idioms. Yes, I am dressed like a horse in that video.
That’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.
Thanks to my friends Todd and Veronica for the gibbons footage you saw in the background. Check out everyone’s cool videos that they made while visiting the gibbons conservation center in California.
I think that my back has fallen open, but you can’t see it, right? Like, it’s not draping here or anything? Thank you.