If you speak English in your daily conversations, you must have heard the saying: “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” Unfortunately, many people use this saying loosely in their conversations without knowing what it actually means. If you’re one of these people, this article explains the “not my circus, not my monkeys” meaning and origin.
“Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys” Meaning and Origin
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The “not my circus, not my monkeys” saying is believed to have originated in Poland. It is believed to be a direct English translation of a popular Polish proverb that goes, “Nie moje krowy, nie moje konie.” However, this Polish proverb talks about cows instead of monkeys.
A loose translation of this Polish proverb goes, “It’s not my cows, it’s not my horses.” The proverb is believed to have been used traditionally by Polish cattle farmers to describe themselves as not responsible for taking care of animals on their properties.
However, there are conflicting reports about the actual origin of this saying. Some people claim that this saying is a direct translation of another Polish proverb that goes, “Nie mój cyrk, nie moje małpy.” The direct English translation of this proverb goes, “It’s not my circus, it’s not my monkeys.”
Despite the conflicting details about its origin, this saying has become very common in modern discourse. It has even inspired literary works, including books. For instance, there’s a book titled “Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys” authored by Lancce Gibbs, the founder and executive chairman of BP3.
BP3 is a company in Austin, Texas that offers investors streamlined and enhanced business solutions and processes. In this book, Gibbs describes the main challenges faced by well-established enterprises while working to increase their productivity. He discusses the importance of balancing the needs of all stakeholders in business, including clients, workforce, and shareholders.
In the context of the “Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys” saying, Gibbs explains the significance of granting your workforce the right systems, power, and respect to improve their performance at work. He warns business owners against neglecting their workforce and clients in their attempts to achieve short-term shareholder benefits.
According to Gibbs, this business strategy ultimately fails in the long run, leaving businesses counting huge losses. In this book, Gibbs advises business owners on how to create long-lasting relationships with their clients and staff for the benefit of their organizations.
He makes it clear to employers that they need to let their employees know that they’re free to make important decisions and take critical actions they deem fit for the overall success of the company, even without having to run it by their bosses. He also advises bosses to let their staff members understand that it’s okay to get it wrong sometimes.
“Managers and supervisors have to show vulnerability about decisions made in their own careers to ensure that their employees really feel empowered to be authentic. There must be an element of support between bosses and employees—not hand-holding, but real, unyielding support. The support structure must be based on trust. Employees need to be able to trust that their bosses have their backs and, in turn, bosses need to trust that their employees can get the job done.”
He adds that it’s your responsibility, as an employer, to let your employees know that they should do what you hired them to do, even without seeking advice from their superiors, unless they feel completely cornered by the situation. Gibbs argues that this freedom creates an honest support structure in an organization and empowers employees to become more productive in their roles.
In a normal conversation, this saying can be used to warn someone against dragging you into their drama or issues. It’s a simple and coded way of telling someone that you are not getting involved in their issues.
Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys Attitude
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As noted above, this saying is a simple way of letting someone know that you’re not concerned about their issues. Here are some examples of how you can use the saying in your conversations.
- “I didn’t want the aftereffects of involving myself in their drama at the time. Later, when things had calmed down, I told the chef that it was not my circus, not my monkeys. He laughed, and we went back to work.”
- Person A: “Don’t you think we should try to help him fix the problem?”
Person B: “He’s the one who caused it to begin with. Not my circus, not my monkeys.”
- “When asked whether she would involve the state’s law enforcement agents in the operation, the governor replied, “Not my circus, not my monkeys.”
- “All this fuss going on at the moment about the lack of government funding for preschool childcare so mothers can work? Sorry, not my circus, not my monkeys”.
- Person A: “Why is the night crew not getting their stock up on the shelves before their shift ends?”
Person B: “Not my circus, not my monkeys.”
- Person A: “Did you hear about the news, and how schools are demanding to keep their sports programs, even though students could catch the Coronavirus?”
Person B: “Sorry sweetie, not my circus, not my monkey. I’m doing school online this semester.”
From the above examples, it’s clear that this saying can be used to express various attitudes. For instance, you can use it to express your uncaring attitude by showing someone that you’re not concerned about a situation. Also, you can use it to show your defiance in a fancy way.
It’s also a way of saying, “I told you so.” It’s a perfect phrase to let someone know that you don’t care what happens, especially in a situation where you offer them advice and they refuse to take it. If they later encounter a problem and come back to you for help, you can simply tell them, “It’s not my circus, not my monkeys” to let them know that it’s none of your business.