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Bears. And etymology!
June 7, 2013 10:20 AM   Subscribe

An animated history of the word "bear"
posted by moxie_milquetoast (27 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Man, we've had an almost unbearable number of bear-related FPPs recently.
posted by kmz at 10:31 AM on June 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


I love this! So well done and so appealing. I subscribed to their YouTube channel and forced my kids to watch a couple of videos. Summertime education!
posted by PuppyCat at 10:35 AM on June 7, 2013


That's a pretty good explanation of the word. It's little facts like that which can really turn people onto historical linguistics, which is no bad thing.

The only point of worry is that he describes two words sounding the same as being like convergent evolution. That's a bad analogy, as convergent evolution is about living things evolving to become alike through facing the same selection pressures. But most words which sound alike (and moreso look alike) happen that way through blind luck. Sometimes words can influence the sound of another, but even then that's not like convergent evolution either.
posted by Jehan at 10:39 AM on June 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


This misses the more contemporary pronunciation of 'bear' as 'bar'. At least that's what they taught us at Lebowski University.
posted by quadog at 10:40 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bar 101 - Sometimes you lower the bar, and sometimes the bar... well, sometimes the bar, it lowers you.
Bar 102 - I'll take a White Russian.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:49 AM on June 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


You know, once you have studied etymology for long enough, this sort of thing goes through your head every time you think about a word for longer than a half-second. IT IS VERY DISTRACTING
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:53 AM on June 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


I heard about this etymology when I was looking up info on ail des ours , bear's garlic, which can be collected in the wild in Europe but does not grow in the US. This webpage here has an interesting etymology of both bears' garlic and the origin of the word bear, itself. Very interesting.
posted by artichoke_enthusiast at 11:14 AM on June 7, 2013


also it leads to an adorable video of a bear cub and a puppy romping around together and the cutesies are overwhelming
posted by psoas at 11:19 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


This was very entertaining and educational. I'm going to have to watch more of his videos tonight. Thanks, moxie_milquetoast!

But for now, I will watch that cute looking video with the dog and bear cub wrasslin'.
posted by chemoboy at 11:26 AM on June 7, 2013


Yay! This is one of my best friends from college and I have been hoping that some of his videos make it here!
posted by ChuraChura at 11:33 AM on June 7, 2013


(here's the new one for today)
posted by ChuraChura at 11:37 AM on June 7, 2013


In parts of Rhode Island, the pronunciation of "beer" and "bear" as disturbingly similar. So if someone says they have a "bay-uh" for you, it is best to inquire more closely before saying "thanks." I doubt this has anything to do with the presence of Brown University.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:39 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Could a typical young man, armed only with a knife, (say, six or eight inches long) be trained to consistently "win" fights with a beer? Assume no element of surprise.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:54 AM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Taboo deformation is great. Did you know that the actual name for deer is "hart," but, perhaps for the same reasons as the taboo against "bear," our ancestors got queasy about saying it, and so said "deer" instead. "Deer," at that time, meant any undomesticated animal.

I also like the taboo deformation around the original word for dandelion, which was pissenlit. It basically means "bed pisser," and it seems possible it was renamed because people just didn't like to call it that.

"Uterus" is apparently also an example of taboo deformation, although its origin is uncertain (it may simply descend from the Indo-European word for "belly) as a result of negative connotations with the Greek word hystera, which comes down to us almost exclusively as "hysteria."

But I won't delve into this too deeply. As our own Languagehat says "'Taboo deformation' is a tricksy move -- it exists, but is a little too convenient when the forms don't really match."
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:02 PM on June 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


When I was in middle school, the powers that be decided to ban girls from wearing spaghetti strap tank-tops. Several of the girls organized a poster-campaign denouncing the fact that it was violating their constitutional "right to bare arms."


They never got anywhere ("School is not a democracy" was the reponse).

Still, it was pretty clever for middle schoolers.
posted by cacofonie at 12:26 PM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yay! This is one of my best friends from college and I have been hoping that some of his videos make it here!

I too know the maker of this series and have been hoping to see this get posted here!, though our connection is mostly limited to beat boxing along with wah guitar in my basement a few years ago.

I think MetaFilter is stalking me
posted by invitapriore at 12:41 PM on June 7, 2013


I also like the taboo deformation around the original word for dandelion, which was pissenlit. It basically means "bed pisser," and it seems possible it was renamed because people just didn't like to call it that.

This etymological strain persists in the form of "pissabed" and similar derivatives ("pee-the-bed," "wet-the-bed," and "pissy-pee" [lol] are some cited by the OED), actually!
posted by invitapriore at 12:46 PM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Arctic is not called "the Arctic" because there are bears there. The Antarctic is not called "the Antarctic" because there are no bears there.

The Arctic is called "the Arctic" because the constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor (Great Bear and Little Bear) are northerly.

The Antarctic is called "the Antarctic" because it is opposite from the Arctic.
posted by Flunkie at 12:52 PM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Man, we've had an almost unbearable number of bear-related FPPs recently

Should I be embarrassed to bare my awareness that I have no wish for barricades against the barrage of beary wonderful goodness that are these FPPs?
posted by bearwife at 1:05 PM on June 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


The Arctic is not called "the Arctic" because there are bears there.

Prove it, wisenheimer!
posted by jimmythefish at 1:20 PM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


You know, once you have studied etymology for long enough, this sort of thing goes through your head every time you think about a word for longer than a half-second. IT IS VERY DISTRACTING

The Arctic is not called "the Arctic" because there are bears there.


Case in point: not far from my house I regularly pass a place called Arctic Spas which advertises its presence with a giant fiberglass sculpture of a polar bear reclining in a hot tub. I frequently see it and think "Polar bear --> Ursus Arctos --> bear spas --> is that intentional? Is that a fantastic translingual pun?" Then I have to go home and lie down for a little while.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:00 PM on June 7, 2013


Kermit (finally): Good grief, the comedian's a bear.
Fozie: No he's a-not a-wearin' a neck-a-tie!

Statler: Did you understand that joke?
Waldorf: No, but I don't speak Italian.
posted by The Bellman at 2:38 PM on June 7, 2013


Agreed that arctic refers to the constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor. Ursus and arktos are obviously from a common root.

So is "boreal," also a word for north, from "bear?"
posted by Repack Rider at 3:26 PM on June 7, 2013


Not according to etymonline, but I like the idea of a particular cardinal direction being the beariest.
posted by invitapriore at 3:30 PM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Septentrional is another word for "northern" that comes from the Big Dipper (or "seven oxen").
posted by mbrubeck at 3:31 PM on June 7, 2013


mbrubeck, I never thought to look that one up. Very interesting!
posted by Jehan at 4:21 PM on June 7, 2013


The Arctic is not called "the Arctic" because there are bears there. The Antarctic is not called "the Antarctic" because there are no bears there.

The Arctic is called "the Arctic" because the constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor (Great Bear and Little Bear) are northerly.


He never said which bears...
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:24 PM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


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