the organ grinder, not the monkey

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Organ grinder with monkey.

Alternative forms[edit]


Street organ grinders historically used monkeys to perform tricks and attract interest and money.


the organ grinder, not the monkey

  1. The person who is in charge, rather than a lackey or representative.
    • 1981, New Society, page 240, column 3:
      And really it is the organ-grinder, not the monkey, who should be shot.
    • 1986 June 5, John Banks, “Local Government Amendment Bill (No. 2)”, in Parliamentary Debates (Hansard): Second Session, Forty-First Parliament 1986. House of Representatives [New Zealand], volume 471, page 1968:
      Every submission stated that the Bill is not needed, yet the Minister has the temerity to come into the House and try to justify it. We wanted to hear from the organ-grinder, not the monkey.
    • 2005, Christopher Foster, British Government in Crisis: or The Third English Revolution, →ISBN, page 48:
      But if a bill were controversial, while civil servants could prepare the ground and clarify the issues, the interests opposed, as Aneurin Bevan put it, expected to see the minister, the organ-grinder, not the monkey.
    • 2013, Van K. Tharp, Trading Beyond the Matrix: The Red Pill for Traders and Investors[1], →ISBN:
      I wanted to be the organ grinder, not the monkey. For years, I had explained to my clients how I was eventually going to be a trader, and now I was going to prove my point.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Most often used with speak to or talk to: "I want to speak to the organ grinder, not the monkey!"