Enter the Honourable Judge's favourite tavern for a dram of Tittle Tattle. There's an ancient bandit in the corner, but I forget his name...
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despite a striking resemblance to both me and BP these are not brass monkeys in the context of cold weather
This! is a brass monkey (although on ships they were usually round not square)
and this is the explanation
"Cannon balls were piled on the deck beside the cannon in a pyramid and held in a 'brass monkey' or ring so they didn't fall over. If the weather was very cold the brass ring would contract faster than the iron cannon balls causing some of them to topple."
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