Green’s Dictionary of Slang

monkey business n.

also monkeydoodle, monkey-doodle business, monkey’s business
(orig. US)

1. dubious, underhand or crooked practices; also attrib.

[US]Cincinnati Enquirer 13 June 4/2: There are intimations by cable that Arabi Pasha has been practicing what would be called among the ‘boys’ in America ’monkey business;’ that he has been pretending to be thrashed when he wasn’t.
O.P. Reid Twenty Good Stories 101: [advert] All the new card tricks and sleight-of-hand monkey-doodle business. Price, 25 cents.
[US]Neihart Herald (MT) 9 Dec. 1/3: Fortunately there is no monkey-doodle business going on in Neihart.
[US]J.F. Lillard Poker Stories 52: Devill comes back and begins his monkey business again.
[US]Wichita Dly Eagle (KS) 23 Oct. 12/2: It is a shame for this nation to allow any monkey-doodles on Bianco’s part.
[US]H. Green Actors’ Boarding House (1906) 263: If you’re four-flushin’ say so, ’cause I won’t stand no monkey business.
[US]Rock Is. Argus (IL) 30 Oct. 12/7: Officer Charles Ginnane put a stop to the monkey doodles.
[US]S. Lewis Our Mr Wrenn (1936) 21: I let him see from the way I looked at him that I wasn’t going to stand for no more monkey business.
[US]Dos Passos Manhattan Transfer 328: If you ever hear a man talking about his duty as a citizen [...] He’s up to some kind of monkey business nine times out of ten.
[US]D. Hammett ‘Corkscrew’ Story Omnibus (1966) 233: You may be a curly wolf with your rod [...] but if you try any of your monkey’s business on me, I’ll turn you over my knee.
[US]R. Fisher Conjure-Man Dies 49: The only business what was flourishin’ was monkey-business [...] Cheatin, — backbitin, and all like that.
[UK]Eve. Teleg. (Dundee) 10 Mar. 7/2: [advert] There’s no Monkey Business about the value in fine quality Groceries [...] offered by Johnston’s Stores.
[US]B. Schulberg Harder They Fall (1971) 144: No monkey business on the road.
[US]M. Spillane Long Wait (1954) 48: Vera and Johnny worked together until the monkey business in the bank came out.
[UK]B. Kops Dream of Peter Mann Act I: jason: I said I have business to discuss with you later. sonia: As long as it’s not monkey business.
[Aus]M. Bail Homesickness (1999) 338: And no monkey business, please.
[UK]S. Bell If... 13 June in If Files (1997) 86: Any monkey business out o’ ye, and, by the bloody red buttock of O’Neil, we’ll be blowing ye away like vermin.
[US]David Byrne ‘Neighborhood’ [lyrics] We’ve got peace, love, and monkey business.
[UK]J.J. Connolly Viva La Madness 238: Jesus was doing his monkey business [...] shifting tackle, making money but spinning out of control.

2. foolish activities, ‘messing around’.

[US]G.W. Peck Peck’s Bad Boy and His Pa (1887) 91: Pa said [...] that there musn’t be no monkey business going on.
[US]T.A. Dorgan in Zwilling TAD Lex. (1993) 58: Johnny Wise Starts A Little ‘Monkey Doodles’ At The Seaside.
[UK]G.R. Sims Off the Track in London 104: It is the predominace of the boy and girl element that has given it a reputation for the ‘monkey’ business.
[US]C. Sherwood diary 22 Sept. [Internet] Too much show and monkey business without learning anything.
[Ire]Joyce Ulysses 115: Monkeydoodle the whole thing.
[US](con. 1900s) S. Lewis Elmer Gantry 159: Now I don’t want any monkey business about this. A preacher must walk circumspectly.
[US]Sat. Eve. Post 12 May 41/2: They ought not to go abroad with such monkey-doodle business [DA].
[US]E.C. Segar ‘Thimble Theatre’ [comic strip] I wants you lubbers to lay off the monkey bizniss.
[US]A. Kober Parm Me 63: Nothing but kissing here and kissing there. Feh! This monkey business I don’t like.
[NZ]G. Slatter Gun in My Hand 209: Well, no monkey business, that’s all.
[US]M. Rumaker Exit 3 and Other Stories 27: I’m tired of the whole monkey business.
[UK]D. Nobbs Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin (1976) 158: No more monkey business, Hump!
[US]‘Jack Tunney’ Split Decision [ebook] You work ’em up, get ’em good and thirsty. But no more monkey business.

3. a euph. for sexual intercourse.

[US]‘J.M. Hall’ Anecdota Americana II 21: I wants to be paid if yo all goin’ to have monkey business wit me tonight.
[US](con. 1930s) R. Barber Night They Raided Minsky’s (1968) 255: I don’t wanna hear the old geezers, I don’t wanna hear anybody who’s over the hill and no good for any more monkey-doodle — if you know what I mean!