29 Comments

  1. “idiomatic expressions don’t always make literal sense”

    My understanding is that, by definition, idiomatic expressions don’t make literal sense.

  2. “Since when are there monkeys in a circus??”

    Monkeys are a big feature in circuses in Asia…China, Indonesia, India, etc.

    How this fact helps anything related to this expression, I’m not sure, but I thought I’d throw it into the mix anyway.

  3. No, J-L, just a particular situation that’s descending into chaos but which is no longer under my control or my problem.

    The expression itself is a favorite of one of my friends and her immediate (and predictable) reaction when I mentioned this to her was “Not my circus…”

  4. So is the “not my circus…” idiom the same as “I don’t have a dog in this fight” or “I don’t have a horse in this race.”, (or as I might say, “I don’t have a horse in this fight”) ?

  5. I don’t exactly see this expression as equivalent to the dog in the fight one. To me, the latter indicates, “I don’t really care who wins or how this situation turns out.” Where as “not my circus…” is more like, “I have no control over the outcome, so it’s not my problem,” even if the outcome directly affects me. “I don’t care” seems different from “I’m not responsible”, to me.

  6. I agree with DanV: “I have no dog in this fight” means, “I don’t care how this turns out.” “Not my circus, not my monkeys” means, “I WISH I didn’t care how this turns out.”

  7. “I have no dog in this fight” = “I have no vested interest in how this turns out”
    “Not my circus” = “I have no responsibility for any of this @#$%”

    If the candidates for the Albuquerque mayor race are fighting a dirty campaign, well, I don’t really care because I have no dog in this fight AND it’s not my circus.

  8. Someone must make up these sayings. Maybe I could make one up, and if I used it a lot, other people would pick it up.

    Like maybe if someone asks me to do something I don’t want to do, like help him move house, I’ll say, “I don’t play Chopsticks unless it’s a Chinese piano.”

  9. Mark – I am working on getting others to use a term I made up.;

    If there is a brother and sister they are siblings. If one refers to one’s son and daughter they are one’s children.

    I have nieces and nephews. I have to use that phrase that time every time I refer to them as there is no collective word for the two types of one’s siblings children. So by taking siblings from the children’s parents relationship to one and the n from niece and nephews, I have taken to referring to them when referring to them collectively as my niblings. (Of course I have to explain it every time, so it is even more cumbersome, but I am working on it.)

    Similarly there is no collective word for aunts and uncles – parent’s siblings? I am still working on a word for them.

    Unless someone here knows of a word in English for either or both groups collectively.

  10. Honestly, I find “nieces and nephews” easy enough to say.

    As for more complex relationships… Some years ago, my wife’s cousin’s ex-husband was trying to explain my relation to him and said I was a kinsman. As our family has gotten increasingly messy, I find myself using that.

  11. In “Citizen of the Galaxy“, Heinlein used Finnish as the “secret” language of a family of traders, and stated (indirectly) that the language was much more detailed and nuanced in its terms for family relationships (in comparison to English). I can’t understand a word of Finnish, but I found an online resource that appears to substantiate some of Heinlein’s claim. It would be interesting to know how Heinlein discovered this information (the book was published three decades before the Internet existed).

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