sucking the monkey

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The illicit act by British naval seamen of using a straw to siphon off rum from its container, a ‘monkey’ being the sailors' description of the vessel in which they collected their grog. During the American War of Independence (1775–82) British sailors persuaded the local West Indian women, who came aboard to sell fresh coconuts, to empty them of their milk beforehand and fill the coconuts with rum instead. When the contents were extracted with a straw this, too, was known as sucking the monkey. The drunkenness that resulted on board remained an unexplained phenomenon for years.

Subjects: Maritime History.

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