Arguing With A Bear

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Picture: East Of Allen

There is an expression in my family that “bears are always right”. Directions given when navigating follow this rule... you never turn right, only bear right. Over time, it has also acquired somewhat broader usage, and can come in quite handy when looking to get the last word in a disagreement*.

My mum told me that it had begun on a holiday in the US, where it appeared that every road sign indicating a right turn instructed “bear right”. It stood out as something that we didn’t see at home** and, perhaps because we were travelling quite a bit through areas where bears actually lived, it started to catch on. That, and the family tendency to interpret things in the other way than intended if there is any ambiguity.

If bears were always right, turns always appeared to be left. I hadn’t given a great deal of thought to this, but others felt quite sorry for all those poor terns that nobody wanted***. Perhaps they should go into partnership with the shags on rocks – what is it with those abandoned sea birds

Picture: Snaxx on Flickr

It’s recently occurred to me that, as well as bears being right, they’re also repeating. Not just repeating any old thing, mind. Only those things that warrant it.

Perhaps the bears’ repeating is how they get to always be right – like studying for exams.

Picture: TADA's Revolution on Flickr

* While never strictly applicable, it’s something very hard to find a suitable comeback for, so can come in handy when in one of those debates that’s going downhill fast (or was just silly to start with). There are lots of those in my family...
** Just another one of those quirks that you come across (and mostly barely register), like “restroom” for toilet, or “yield” instead of give way. Not like aluminum for aluminium, which is a whole other bowl of penguins.
*** That level of literalism never occurred to me. The only humour (not that unwanted terns should be a source of mirth) to be previously found in terns was to “take your tern. But always remember to return him later on.” Which is quite a different outcome for the tern, if you think about it. Hmm... now I understand why I get told I think too much!

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