"Not my circus, not my monkees:" 'Old' Polish proverb?

Is it indeed an old Polish proverb. With just some cursory poking around, the earliest quick cite I saw was a 2012 reddit posting, but not knowing Polish complicates doing much further research. Yeah, and I took some liberty with the spelling of ‘monkeys’ to add a little levity.

If it is, it wouldn’t date back much further than the mid-1960s.

Would you consider that old?

Is this from the George Peppard show banacek where he would through out invented Polish proverbs?

The Monkees were a Polish band? :wink:

Monkeys are at the circus.

Monkees are a band. Sort of.

Micky Dolenz was circus boy, so yeah.

I don’t care where it came from. It’s a great fucking phrase.

“There was some question whether it was he or his minkey who was breaking the leu…”

-Inspector Clouseau

I’ve never heard it before, and all my grandparents were Polish.

madsircool’s suggestion that it originated with the TV show Banacek has an alluring air of plausibility to it.

In Polish, it’s nie mój cyrk, nie moje małpy or nie moje małpy, nie mój cyrk (“not my monkeys, not my circus.”) I find a Polish source from 1998 attributing it to Adam Michnik. Here’s the source for that. The Google Books search has a bit more of the snippet, which reads: “W tym Wypadku nie mogę powiedzieć jak Adam Michnik: nie mój cyrk, nie moje małpy.” (“In this case, I can’t say like Adam Michik, not my circus, not my monkeys.”) That quote appears in something that looks like a Polish Roman Catholic Publication called “Znak” (“sign/symbol/mark”). I wouldn’t know much beyond that, though. It’s not an expression I’ve heard my parents use. It appears to mean something like “it’s not my problem.”

The phrase does seem to have some currency in Poland, but I suspect it’s a newer phrase, rather than some old Polish proverb. But that’s just a guess.

Searching Google N-Gram brings up no hits. Searching Google Books brings up hits no more than three years old (which would seem to rule out Banacek). There are several of these, though, and most claim that it’s a Polish proverb. I think they’re copying from each other.

There’s an interesting occurrence of “not my circus, nor won’t be my funeral”, though, from 1892 (!!)

It’s in Joaquin Miller’s My Life Among the Indians, p. 126


Banacek was my first thought, but it doesn’t fit at all. Those aphorisms were all independent observations/advice, not commentary on something specific.

Here it is, translated into Polish. Whether it actually started out that way, I am now dubious of:

The webpage gives no good cite.

I also found this, which appears to be a Polish urban dictionary type of thing. The phrase has 5 down votes, though. It was added in 2008, and the definition is “something that doesn’t interest me.” The example is “What’s up with your mother?”) A: [Interjection], not my monkeys, not my circus."

That’s really funny - I was going to add to my post that I always hear the phrase as by one of Sellers’ ancient wits, like the one who quavers, “That’s not… my dog.”

Okay, I ran a search on the polish phrase in Google Books, and find it cited as early as 1996, in Pamiętnik inteligenta: samo życie - Volume 2 - Page 330 by Franciszek Ryszka. There are some other cites from the late 1990s through 2014.

So it does appear to originally be Polish, but not exactly an “old” saying. If it IS old, it miraculously survived seeing print until 20 years ago.

I also find the phrase “jego cyrk, jego malpy” (“his circus, his monkeys”) here, also from 1996 The way it’s given as a quote in the interview makes it sound like a phrase readers would have some familiarity with, so I suspect it must predate 1996 by at least a few years. Searching google.pl for pre-1996 citations of any form of the phrase yields no results. (Then again, pre-1996 web isn’t quite the size and popularity now.) I wish we still had usenet searches, as those were pretty helpful for this sort of thing.

That version (“his” rather than “not my”) has a better cadence in both Polish and English, IMHO. I wonder if the origin is there, and then it morphed while in the current meme status.

Doesn’t make any difference where it came from, it’s a great phrase, I’ll be using it.