Sock monkey dog toys – Is this a tar-baby or should I just hide in the brier patch?

What follows isn’t intended to upset anyone, I am just a little confused that one thing seems to be accepted by polite society, another thing isn’t and a third thing is borderline. If you have an opinion please do share it politely.

Hot Air Balloons played a large role in my childhood and some of the designs were so striking that I still remember them vividly. For example I remember seeing the Golli balloon when I was small, I don’t recall when or where this was, but it was a huge balloon that seemed to be smiling at everyone – so it is a pretty good memory.

It transpires that Golli was technically the first special shape balloon and was created by 1976 by Don Cameron and Neil Robertson – it was a balloon version of the Robertson jam mascot golly (1).

G-OLLI hot air balloon

(Photo from

I don’t remember the jam mascot, I’ve always been more a Marmite person – but apparently it started being used by Robertson’s in 1910 (2) and gollies themselves popped up a lot in popular culture, for example Enid Blyton books.

There has been a purging of all things golly from popular culture, many people do feel passionately that they have racist connotations and it is inarguable that they are not ok in polite society.

In the post-Christmas sales at a pet shop I found a sock monkey and it made me wonder why sock monkeys are ok if gollies are not.

This is a sock monkey:

sock monkey dog toy

(Photo and product from

This is a Robertson’s golly badge:

robertson's golly badge

(Photo from

I knew nothing about sock monkeys before today, apparently they are soft toys made out of socks, are dark coloured and have big red mouths. Wiki tells me that the red-heeled sock-mouth ones emerged in 1932 thanks to the Nelson Knitting Company (3).

There seem to be points of similarity with the golly toys that would led me to expect that sock monkeys would be frowned on too. But an internet search doesn’t turn up any obvious controversy.

Ok, so a golly is bad, a sock monkey is ok, what about a tar-baby?

I know about Tar Babies due to Uncle Remus and Br’er Rabbit (aka Brer Rabbit), in the story the fox uses a doll made out of tar is used to entrap the Rabbit until he tricks the fox to throw him into the brier-patch and then escapes.


(Photo from

The name alone could cause some people to deem it racist (and apparently have done in the US), but equally it is in a dictionary as a term referring to a situation (usually a sticky one!) which is made worse the more it is poked.

So I think the question of if a tar-baby is racist might be a tar-baby itself, the more you poke at it the more you might find people deem it racist.

I’m still a bit unsure why sock monkeys aren’t frowned on, but I do think that you couldn’t let a dog play with those toys in public – people might really get the wrong idea!


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