Everyone knows the monkey, but the monkey knows no one.
November 3, 2007 2:26 PM   Subscribe

Proverb origins? Everyone knows the monkey, but the monkey knows no one.

It's used in Finnish (Kaikki tuntevat apinan, mutta apina ei tunne ketään). Some claim it originates here, but I have my doubts. I've tried googling various forms in English, but I get few results. Some of those seem to be from Baltic or Russian people. I think I also saw a Swede there. Have you heard it in these or any other languages? How frequently? Do you have knowledge or good guesses of its origins?
posted by Anything to Writing & Language (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This guy says it's Swedish: "Alla känner apan, apan känner ingen."

What does it mean? In what context would you use it?
posted by Flunkie at 2:31 PM on November 3, 2007

Response by poster: Oh, Estonians too. I somewhat carelessly lumped them in with the Balts, although they're ethnically and linguistically more related to us Finns.
posted by Anything at 2:37 PM on November 3, 2007

Response by poster: I've mostly seen it used in relation to someone making a fool of himself, being shunned, and not understanding what's going on or why.
posted by Anything at 2:41 PM on November 3, 2007

Response by poster: Looking at the results, it seems a vastly more common context is fame in general; getting approached by lots of strangers who know you by name. No particularly bleak connotations.
posted by Anything at 3:30 PM on November 3, 2007

Now I'm hoping it's secretly related to 'Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey'.
posted by eritain at 9:37 PM on November 3, 2007

It sounds like a variant of the English proverb, 'More know Tom Fool than Tom Fool knows'. According to the Oxford Dictionary of English Proverbs, this goes a long way back; the earliest citations are 1656, 'In all Comedies more know the Clown, than the Clown knows', and 1723, 'It was no satisfaction to me that I knew not their faces, for they might know mine .. according to the old English proverb, that more know Tom Fool, than Tom Fool knows'.
posted by verstegan at 2:00 AM on November 4, 2007

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