Friday, May 13

On the definition of a monkey

This one is mostly for the benefit of Buzz.

Yes, apes are monkeys and therefore so are we. I’ve said it before and I’ve given my reasons, other biology types have said it and given their reasons, yet a crime against pedantry rages unabated.

... from Zygoma.

The author, PaoloV is in osteology, which means he might well be working with different primate species all the time, but I just can't bring myself to consider working with dead primates to being on the same footing as working with live primates. We all have our flaws.

Truthfully, the distinction between monkey and ape is a handy one to have. There are too many people I meet (smart people, too) who do not understand the vast difference between a chimpanzee and a spider monkey, thinking of them both as "monkeys." Maybe I ought to devote an entire Human Ethology post to this, but I don't think people are naturally inclined towards understanding the distinction between inclusive and non-inclusive sets. Its definitely easier to think, "okay they're closely related, but a monkey is one thing and an ape is another." And its even easier to think "anything that swings around and makes hooting noises is a monkey."

I really like the word "monkey," however. Its such a fun pair of syllables, so I would not be opposed to being given more opportunities to use the word. Its unfortunate that there the two main distinctions within are Old World and New World Monkeys. In that case, shouldn't we be assigned some kind of monkey subtitle?

In conclusion, I have no strong opinion one way or the other, though I may wind up changing the name of this blog to Lord of the Monkeys at some point, to promote greater journalistic integrity.

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