Not my circus, not my monkeys. Idiom usage

Idioms from other languages
Are these your monkeys?

Not my circus. Not my monkeys. I did a double take. I was having coffee with my Irish friend Paul and he was throwing this phrase around throughout our conversation. He was clearly trying to make a point.

Real meaning

While I pressed on with my most concerning issues he would respond with, “Not my circus not my monkeys.” Intrigued, I did my best to hang on his every word, more because I found these words so expressive, than due to wanting to take on their real meaning.

This fabulously descriptive phrase is of Polish origin: “nie moj cyrk, nie moje malpy” but there is not much available on its history and early use. This could be because it’s not part of the English language. However, it’s a fabulous addition, now that we know about it.

“It’s none of my business; indicates that one is not responsible for controlling or changing a volatile or delicate situation – Wiktionary. In other words, don’t get worked up over things that are out of your control. Or, issues that really concern other people. It gets difficult when the issues of other people spill over into your day to day life. Then you really can’t help talking about them.

Not in your control

Paul, who obviously has it all together, was having none of it – no justification, no plaintive cry, no anxious appeal about the plight of how involved this person with spill over issues is in my life. Not my circus, not my monkeys.

After three hours of chatter and as many pots of tea, I was right in the swing of “not my circus, not my monkeys” and was almost happy to let go of all those bothers that occupy my mind and keep me from sleep at night. That was until I got back into my car to reflect on the complexities of my life. But then I took a deep breath and on the exhale – Hey ho, not my circus, not my monkeys.

Now that I’ve mastered my first Polish phrase, perhaps I can book a trip and find out what else the Poles have to offer the English language.

Iza Grek

Iza is an award-winning journalist. She has worked in advertising and communications for more than 20 years. A Word or 2 has been in operation since October 2014 and continues to thrive, serving customers writing and editing services across the board from blogs to speeches and e-books.