Tarzan stood up and drummed on his chest for attention. The assembled simians shuffled into a circle.
“Now,” he began, “I’ve called this meeting because some of us aren’t getting along as well as we should. We can’t have that, if this troop is to thrive and prosper.”
“Excuse me, Chair,” said Koko, raising a leathery hand. “But on a point of order, has the committee not ruled that we are a shrewdness, rather than a troop? I mean, ‘troop’ makes it sounds like we’re actors or minstrels or something...”
There were general “ughs” around the circle.
“Whereas we’re highly intelligent primates, with a rich culture and society. As I recall, the committee decided that ‘shrewdness’ was a better collective noun, reflecting our sophisticated...”
At this point Koko broke off, because he’d spotted a juicy tick in his neighbour’s armpit. Deftly, he reached out, plucked the morsel free, and popped it into his mouth.
“... social heritage,” he finished, between lip smacks.
“Sorry. Of course; we’re a shrewdness, yes, not a troop. Thank you, Koko. I don’t know what we’d do without you and your points of order,” Tarzan replied evenly, although his eyes silently added, “But I’d love to find out.”
“Anyway,” he continued aloud, “it seems the problem is that some chaps are insulting other chaps ... Yes? What now?” he sighed, as another hand went up.
Milee looked up from the intricate task of applying lipstick to her bottom, and responded in her habitual purr: “Point of order, Chair. ‘Chaps’ is sexist, as I believe the committee has ruled ...”
“Ah, enough with the bloody feminism,” growled her husband, Keeta. “What are you, a Bonobo?”
“Maybe if you were a Bonobo, I’d be too busy getting a decent seeing-to to worry about feminism, have you ever considered that?” Milee shot back, to titters from the other females and guffaws from Keeta’s mates.
“Okay, steady on; we’re getting a little off topic here,” said Tarzan, blushing furiously. His residual Englishman was firmly convinced that there were some subjects a chap didn’t discuss in mixed company. Speaking of chaps ...
“You see, what you cha... fello... folks must understand, is that when I say ‘chaps’, I mean folks of both sexes. It’s just a figure of speech; no offence meant. But it does bring me to my point – I might mean nothing by saying the word, but I realise that it does offend Milee. So I’ll try to do better in future.
“And the same goes for what I really wanted to talk about: this business of calling each other monkeys whenever we’re upset. It’s rude, it’s insensitive, it’s hurtful, and it’s simply not on, do I make myself clear? We’re all apes here, do you hear? In fact, I’d go so far as to say we’re all great apes, and don’t any of you forget it!”
“Anyone calls me a monkey, I’ll be hiding in the forest to ambush him ...” muttered Keeta.
“You see?” exclaimed Tarzan. “That’s what I’m trying to avoid. The last thing we want is Keeta launching a guerrilla war...”
“What did you call me?” roared Keeta.
“Oh dear,” sighed Tarzan. “Language is so tricky, isn’t it?”
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