Simian Semantics, or How I Became a Wine Monkey

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the-oph-a-gy, n. In primitive religious practice, the sacramental eating of a god…

Words like “theophagy” were once used to draw a distinction between Us and Them. Primitive people practice theophagy, Christians celebrate the Eucharist. Updated dictionaries now acknowlege the identity of these terms; but I don’t remember a culture battle over the issue; probably because who cares about anthropology jargon?

But call someone a monkey and you get resistance.

As a scientific term, “monkey” is obsolete. There are New World Monkeys and Old World Monkeys and their most recent common ancestor is also your ancestor. But you are not a monkey, or so you’re told. Monophyly dictates: you are a monkey. There is no way to define us out of this perfectly musical word without forcing inelegant and arbitrary semantic caveats. We are supposed to believe there is a big old set of monkeys, except for these – they’re apes. And then there is a big old set of apes, except for these – they’re people. No other biological classification works that way. Get over yourself. People are apes and apes are monkeys.

You are a monkey. If you fix cars you are a grease monkey. If you “study” wine you are a wine monkey. The word “sommelier” is propaganda, an artificial way of separating the various monkeys who drink and study wine.

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5 thoughts on “Simian Semantics, or How I Became a Wine Monkey

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