Someone asked me for something and I said, "Do you need it right now, or do I have a couple hours to monkey around with it?" They got really quiet. While certainly unprofessional, is this also somehow offensive?
I don't think the term is necessarily offensive, but maybe your cavalier attitude toward the "something" was what gave the person pause. Maybe he or she thought you should handle whatever the something was with more care than implied by monkeying around with it.
The term is not offensive, however, it is usually used to describe an effort (to improve something) that does not succeed, so maybe that's why the person got quiet.
To "monkey around" is to NOT do something (or take something) seriously. If it was a work situation, that might be "professionally" (as opposed to "socially") offensive.
The context you used your phrase is not offensive. However, the phrase itself, is.
As some comments had pointed out, there is some hypersensitivity surrounding that phrase. Most of the hypersensitivity is due to racial implications.
While I'm sure you meant no offense (your context even proves it), chances are that you probably were talking to someone either of ethnicity or someone who is just sensitive to ethnic slurs.
to monkey around OED
- intr. colloq. (orig. U.S.). To play mischievous or foolish tricks. Also: to fool or mess about or around; to tinker, tamper, or interfere (frequently with about with, around with, or with).
1989 Your Business In financial terms there is no lower end; we can always monkey around with the shares.
It is listed in dictionaries as either colloquial or idiomatic and not offensive. But in these times it is best to leave the monkey out of all conversation.
protected by tchrist♦ Aug 29 '18 at 22:40
Thank you for your interest in this question.
Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).
Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?