Bear vs. Bare.

I’m going to assume everyone knows the large, furry mammal is a “bear” and when a woman wears a tank top, her arms are “bare.” But after that, a person can get confused. “Bear” can mean “to carry the weight of or support, take responsibility for” or “to endure (an ordeal or difficulty),” according to the OED. “Bare” can mean “void of or without, empty” or “basic, simple or small in number.” It also can mean “to uncover or expose” or, as an adverb, it can mean “very or really,” as in “he is bare lazy.”   

Do you think this homonym dubiety could be behind all the controversy around the Second Amendment? Check out this piece by “The Atlantic” that discusses linguistical interpretations by former SCOTUS Justices Stevens and Scalia of the phrase “bear Arms” (not “bare” arms, which we’ve already covered or uncovered, depending on how you look at it). The article refers to a nifty research tool called “corpus linguistics” that allows researchers to search millions of documents to see how words were used during the time of the word’s publishing – in this instance, more than two centuries ago – so we understand its “original public meaning.”  

That’s all. I’m not about to publicly weigh in on this explosive national debate. That would be bare foolish.   

Comments are closed.