I can’t stand it when people tell me about their pet peeves. It drives me up a wall!
Dodge and PETA recently locked horns over a television ad for a Dodge sales event that featured a young chimpanzee. You can learn more about the issue here. In the link, Dodge is applauded for dealing with PETA’s objection to using chimps in advertising in a wry and effective way. When I viewed the ad, however, I just ended up distracted and frustrated. My issue is a bit pedantic, but what good is a blog if you can’t use it to rant about intellectual laziness? CHIMPS AREN’T MONKEYS!
Why does it bug me so much when people refer to chimpanzees as monkeys? I don’t know. I guess it’s because it’s wrong. When you see something that’s clearly wrong, doesn’t that bother you?
Let’s say your friend pulls up in his Camaro and asks if you’d like to go for a ride in his pick-up truck. Would that make you hesitate and question why he called it a pick-up? Maybe Jay-Z is on the radio and your friend says, “Ooh I love this new Ludacris song.” Do you correct her? Suppose you order a beer and the bartender says “Here’s your whiskey” while he hands you the beer bottle. Wouldn’t you wonder what the heck was wrong with him?
Not a pick-up truck.
I think you would. That’s why I’m not merely being pedantic when I complain that someone has referred to an ape as a monkey. They’re different. They’re not the same. Many people know this too. Every doctor, nurse, dentist, science teacher, physical therapist, game warden, biologist, etc. out there at one point must have taken some kind of biology class that included learning about the classification of vertebrate animals. You know, “Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species”? We no longer classify species by these exact categories, but the big changes have come at the level of Kingdoms so the relevant classification of the Vertebrates – a subphylum within the Phylum “Chordata” – is pretty close to how we learned it.
So monkeys and apes are different. Yes, both groups belong to the Order Primates, but they actually reside in different Families. In fact, they’re even more different than Families, as “New World monkeys,” “Old World monkeys,” and “apes” are assigned to different Infraorders – with apes in a separate Superfamily.
Okay, maybe I’ve now lost all but the most diligent of the biology geeks so an example can provide perspective. Cats and dogs both belong to different Families (in different Suborders) within the Order Carnivora. Thus referring to an ape as a monkey is akin to referring to a dog as a cat. It’s just wrong.
Which brings up another phenomenon. You never hear of someone referring to a monkey as an ape, only an ape as a monkey. So maybe the dictionaries are at fault for sloppy definitions that don’t follow the biological standard. Sure enough, it’s right there in the Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary:
“1: a nonhuman primate mammal with the exception usually of the lemurs and tarsiers; especially : any of the smaller longer-tailed catarrhine or platyrrhine primates as contrasted with the apes”
Arrggh. So it’s technically not a problem in terms of English language word usage to refer to an ape as a monkey, though I’d eat my hat if even 1 in 100 of the “ape as monkey” offenders out there had taken the time to look it up to decide if it was okay to use monkey to refer to an ape. Anyone who had invested that effort would surely have come across the more appropriate biological distinction and simply called their chimp an ape, which it is.
Also, check this out.