Monday, 25 February 2013

Stuffed monkey

In the Guardian at the weekend, Jane Goodall did the Q&A regular feature. One of the questions is 'What is your most treasured possession?', and she answered: 
My mascot Mr H, a stuffed monkey that I have had for 19 years.
Generally, 'a stuffed monkey' means something like this:
But is that what 'stuffed monkey' means here? It could also be this: 

Given that Goodall worked with chimps in Africa, it's entirely possible that she has an actual monkey that has been stuffed, perhaps a favourite pet. It wouldn't be a chimp, because as an expert she would not call a chimp a monkey, but still a possibility, no? 

This ambiguity is not normally present, because the first meaning is so much more accessible, so this is an example of how context can make a big difference to the salience of a secondary reading. 

In case you're curious, it is a toy:

And she made no mention of whether she made the chimps work in a diamond mine, as her fictional counterpart did in the Simpsons.