What time is it?

Among the many smart alecky answers to “what time is it” common on playgrounds nationwide, the two best known are probably:

“Two hairs past the freckle,” (said when looking at an invisible watch) and

“Half past a monkey’s ass.”

Of the two, there is more variation in the “monkey” version. The full version, depending on who you ask, is either:

Half past a monkey’s ass
a quarter to his balls


Half past a monkey’s ass
a quarter to his tail.

I’m on the side of the “balls” version being the “correct” version – it makes slightly more sense. Neither is exactly a SENSIBLE thing to say (this is, after all, the point), but I think that if you’re half past a monkey’s ass, I don’t see how you can already be a quarter of the way to his tail – presumably you’re half past that, too, unless I’m picturing this entirely the wrong way (as I probably am). And, anyway, if you’ve already said the word “ass,” why clean up the last line?

My in-laws learned this in Ohio in the early 1960s, which is about the time that both “monkey” and “two hairs” started appearing in print. Most likely, they’re a great deal older, though prior to that most folklorists would have declined to print the monkey version. I’d lay decent odds that “monkey” started to catch on in the military first, while “two hairs” could have begun life as a vaudeville joke, but I don’t have a good source on that.

What smart alecky remarks did YOU know for “what time is it?”

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  1. Jonathan Harford

    Just yesterday I shared a New Yorker cartoon I thought was very funny:

    A friend of mine later pointed out that it was referring to this… poem, which I'd been unfamiliar with.

  2. Anonymous

    "daytime." -my dad

  3. Anonymous

    Who could forget the classic "Time for you to get a watch" response? :-)

  4. Susan

    Where did the "Time for you to get a watch" response come from? What time in history?

  5. Adam Selzer

    That response is probably about as old as the joke.

    I also like the response "You mean now?" I think people attribute that one to Yogi Berra.

  6. Anonymous

    Half past the monkey's ass
    Quarter to his balls
    Look between his legs
    And see Niagara Falls

  7. af41205e-b600-11e2-84f2-000bcdcb8a73

    Half past a monkey's ass
    Quarter to his balls
    Lift up his left leg
    And see Niagra Falls

  8. Bivouac

    "A pimple past a hair", was the way I heard it.

  9. Mad Dog Gatecrasher

    Also "donkey's ass" and "horse's ass", NJ-NY area, 1980's-today.

  10. Anonymous Rob

    "Skin past bone" was the common reply in 80s Grimsby, England


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