A paragraph from the New York Times article:

Some researchers hypothesize, that there might be a specific part of the brain that is devoted to the doing of taxonomy. Without the power to order and name life, a person simply does not know how to live in the world, how to understand it. How to tell the carrot from the cat-which to grate and which to pet? To order and name life is to have a sense of the world around, and as a result, what one's place is in it

Regarding the text in bold, what does this sentence try to convey? Tell the carrot? And why from the cat? Does the author personalize them? Please help me understand it.

1 Answer 1


To tell is used here with the following meaning: to be able to discern or distinguish something as being distinct and unique compared to something else. Carrot and cat are two random things chosen by the author to give an example. If our brain can distinguish carrots from cats, we will peel or grate carrots and pet cats, and not vice versa.

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