44. Patterns of Culture
What influences us from the moment of birth?
Custom has not commonly been regarded as a subject of any great moment. The inner workings of our own brains we feel to be uniquely worthy of investigation, but custom, we have a way of thinking, is behavior at its most commonplace. As a matter of fact, it is the other way around. Traditional custom, taken the world over, is a mass of detailed behavior more astonishing than what any one person can ever evolve in individual actions, no matter how aberrant. Yet it is a rather trivial aspect of the matter. The fact of first-rate importance is the predominant role that custom plays in experience and in belief, and the very great varieties it may manifest.
No man ever looks at the world with pristine eyes. He sees it edited by a definite set of customs and institutions and ways of thinking. Even in his philosophical probings he cannot go behind these stereotypes; his very concepts of the true and the false will still have reference to his particular traditional customs. John Dewey has said in all seriousness that the part played by custom in shaping the behavior of the individual, as against any way in which he can affect traditional custom, is as the proportion of the total vocabulary of his mother tongue against those words of his own baby talk that are taken up into the vernacular of his family. When one seriously studies the social orders that have had the opportunity to develop autonomously, the figure becomes no more than an exact and matter-of-fact observation. The life history of the individual is first and foremost an accommodation to the patterns and standards traditionally handed down in his community. From the moment of his birth, the customs into which he is born shape his experience and behavior. By the time he can talk, he is the little creature of his culture, and by the time he is grown and able to take part in its activities, its habits are his habits, its beliefs his beliefs, its impossibilities his impossibilities. Every child that is born into his group will share them with him, and no child born into one on the opposite side of the globe can ever achieve the thousandth part. There is no social problem it is more incumbent upon us to understand than this of the role of custom. Until we are intelligent as to its laws and varieties, the main complicating facts of human life must remain unintelligible.
The study of custom can be profitable only after certain preliminary propositions have been accepted, and some of these propositions have been violently opposed. In the first place, any scientific study requires that there be no preferential weighting of one or another of the items in the series it selects for its consideration. In all the less controversial fields, like the study of cacti or termites or the nature of nebulae, the necessary method of study is to group the relevant material and to take note of all possible variant forms and conditions. In this way, we have learned all that we know of the laws of astronomy, or of the habits of the social insects, let us say. It is only in the study of man himself that the major social sciences have substituted the study of one local variation, that of Western civilization.
Anthropology was by definition impossible, as long as these distinctions between ourselves and the primitive, ourselves and the barbarian, ourselves and the pagan, held sway over people’s minds. It was necessary first to arrive at that degree of sophistication where we no longer set our own belief against our neighbor’s superstition. It was necessary to recognize that these institutions which are based on the same premises, let us say the supernatural, must be considered together, our own among the rest.
aberrant: not usual or not socially acceptable
ab = away
trivial: not serious, important, or valuable
We were punished for the most trivial offences.
insignificant/not significant / petty / trivial / small / be of no importance
main, key, chief, principal, leading, vital, crucial, essential, significant
more powerful, more common, or more easily noticed than others
the predominant group in society
dominant, predominant, preponderant, paramount, preeminent
These adjectives mean surpassing all others in power, influence, or position.
apparent, clear, evident, manifest, obvious, patent, plain, clear-cut, distinct
The central meaning shared by these adjectives is “readily seen, perceived, or understood.”
Angry for no apparent reason;
a clear danger
clear-cut evidence of tampering
making my meaning plain
pristine: extremely fresh or clean
a pristine white shirt
sth that is pristine is in the same condition as when it was first made
The car has been restored to pristine condition.
spotless, pristine, immaculate, spick and span
hometown, family town,
mother tongue, first language,
on my way home, on my homeward way,
it is delicious, it is tantalizing,
firstly, to begin with,
last but not least
the last point we cannot afford to neglect
with the development of science
as the science advances / progresses
a. incumbent on/upon sb.
necessary as part of sb’s duty
b. holding the specified official position; current
cumb = to lie down
“英语在其长期发展中形成一种相对固定的词序 (WORD ORDER), 其特征是主语在前， 谓语在后，即‘主语+谓语’的结构。 这是英语的‘正常词序’(NORMAL ORDER). 除状语的位置比较机动外，主语、谓语动词、宾语和补语的位置都是相对固定的。 这种词序的相对固定性转而又使某种打破常规改变词序的做法成为一种表示强调的手段。
同样的，如果把一个句首成分移至句尾， 也会产生类似的修辞效果。” （章振邦）
The inner workings of our own brains we feel to be uniquely worthy of investigation, but custom, we have a way of thinking, is behavior at its most commonplace.
We feel that the inner workings of our own brains to be uniquely worthy of investigation, but we have a way of thinking that custom is the most commonplace behavior.
it is taken the world over.
the fact of first-rate importance:
Fighting poverty and unemployment should come before all other considerations.
Her boy-friend is the be-all and end-all of her existence.
In our work quality counts for as much as quantity.
When you are learning English, having a sound linguistic environment makes a world of difference.
A great deal hangs on this decision.
This new method is gaining in importance / is assuming more and more importance.
A country’s sinews are its roads and railways.
We have got a lot of things to do, but packing is top of the list.
Full ownership of a book comes only when you have made it a part of yourself, the best way to make yourself part of it is by writing in it. An illustration may make the point clear. You buy a beefsteak and transfer it from butcher’s icebox to your own. But you do not own the beefsteak in the most important sense until you consume it and get it into your bloodstream. I am arguing that books, too, must be absorbed in your bloodstream to do you any good.
observation = remark
There is no social problem it is more incumbent upon us to understand than this of the role of custom.
Nothing illustrates his selfishness more clearly than his attitude toward his wife.
There is no quicker method of disposing of patients than by giving them what they are asking for.
take note (of sth)
to pay attention to sth = notice
People were beginning to take note of her talents as a writer.
His first album made the music world stand up and take note.
to talk to someone in order to find out if their experience of something is the same as yours:
Leading scientists got together in Paris to compare notes on current research.