Re: Good Eating and Good Thinking

Iain Davidson (idavidso@METZ.UNE.EDU.AU)
Thu, 24 Aug 1995 06:41:30 +1000

Isn't this an interesting thread about memory and the way we use it. I,
too, sent the quotation to the original poster. She, of course, had been
taught it in a way that she remembered it wrongly. So had I. I remembered
"Totems are *not* good to eat, they are good to think", the opposite of the
sense originally posted here, but for me the point has always been about
totems. Those who looked in _The Savage Mind_ presumably thought the key
was *thinking*. Curiously, the quotation, unembellished does not mention
totems, so that my memory was wrong, though it led me more directly to the
source. Could someone supply the quotation in French?

>Greg Finnegan translates from Claud Levy-Strauss:
>What L-S wrote was:
>"We can understand, too, that natural species are chosen [as
>totems] not because they are 'good to eat' but because they are
>'good to think.'"
>p. 89, TOTEMISM. Boston: Beacon Press, 1963. =20
>When I used that quote (actually that TRANSLATION) in a recent article, my
>editor got a little perturbed. "How," she asked, "can one use that phrase in
>English? 'To think' is intransitive in all its usages, so there must be some
>sort of object to follow it."
>Technically correct, but to the rescue came an English professor from
>Mississippi State who broke the impass with this translation that, I
>think, both
>captures the spirit of the original French while rendering it into correct
>English (and earned her a footnote at the bottom of the article!).
>"We can understand, too, that natural species are chosen not because they are
>*good eating* but because they are *good thinking*.
>It took me a while to find it, too,as Greg Pointed out. I discovered, however,
>a dictionary of French quotations in the library at Middlebury College when I
>was visiting there one summer. It had all the appropriate citations and
>made it
>easy to locate in the original text (after, of course, I had spent all
>that time
>skimming and reskimming Pensee Sauvage, where I was sure I would find it!).
>Andrew Petto
>Dept Anthropology, UWisc
>1180 Observatory Dr.
>Madison 53706-1393

Iain Davidson
Archaeology and Palaeoanthropology
University of New England
Armidale, NSW 2351
Tel +61 +67 732 441
Fax +61 +67 732 526