Bear chairs

Today’s Zippy lumbers through some plays on bear, in a bear chair:

(#1) The bear figure as both comforting and threatening

Bear chairs, gay bears, flags, and more.

Lexical matters. A first hack at the relevant senses of bear. In the title:

verb bear with be patient or tolerant with (NOAD2)

Then the noun senses in NOAD2, taking in the animal sense [1a], but not the sense in be a real bear or the sense  the gay subculture:

1 [a] a large, heavy, mammal that walks on the soles of its feet, with thick fur and a very short tail. Bears are related to the dog family, but most species are omnivorous [family Ursidae]; [b] a teddy bear; [c] informal a rough, unmannerly, or uncouth person; [d] a large, heavy, cumbersome man; [e] (the Bear) informal a nickname for Russia; [f] (the Bear) the constellation Ursa Major or Ursa Minor.

2 Stock Market a person who forecasts that prices of stocks or commodities will fall, especially a person who sells shares hoping to buy them back later at a lower price

More figurative uses of the noun, from GDoS:

5 fig. uses derived from the animal’s negative characteristics … (b) (US black) a misfortune, an unfortunate situation [first cite 1936] [1989 Peter Benchley Lush … First one’s always a bear]

6 senses based on the bear’s furriness … (c) (US) a hairy, beefy homosexual male [first cite 1997-2002 Internet]

GDoS sense 5(b) is the one in the third panel of the cartoon, often encountered in the catchphrase Life’s a bear ~ Life’s a bitch:

GDoS noun bitch: 4 a problem, a complaint (a) anything unpleasant, difficult, problematic, “the devil”

GDoS sense 6 comes up repeatedly on this blog, and I’ll get back to it below. But here a lexicographic note: GDoS‘s 1997 dating is offbase by at least 25 years. The term was current in the 1970s, and Bear magazine was founded in 1987.

(#2) A sample issue, with an illustrative bear

Bear chairs 1. The cartoon’s image of Zippy seated in a gigantic chair in the form of a bear is quite striking — probably depicting an actual bear figure in a woodland setting somewhere, but in any case representing a variety of bear chairs available from several sources.

On the Pop Art Decoration site:


Product description: Unique bear figure chair made from resin with wood-like finish.

At Pop Art Decoration we have a great range of wood carving products. Our products are skilfully hand crafted from durable resin material.

Our wood carving features include log chair and bench and a variety of furniture featuring bear figures. Our furniture includes; bear side table, bear hat stand, bear bench, bear dining chairs and table and bear bench with chest…and more! These classic items are durable and affordable.
These wood carving pieces are the perfect item for a wooden cabin, hotel, guest house, pubs, restaurants or even your home! Create that cozy and warm feeling with these wooden carving furniture and products!

And from the Green Head site, aggregating products from different sources:


Massive Brown Bear Chair: Need a unique chair for the living room, a bench for the garden, or just want a commanding seat at the dining table? Then look no further than this cool new Massive Brown Bear Chair. Don’t be too frightened, but this giant 7.5 foot brown bear statue is actually a bench for one or two people. One can sit on it’s lap and another can rest upon its paw or just let it sit majestically as a statue. Makes a unique super villain throne as well.

Bear chair 2. It turns out that bear chair is also current as a synonym for Adirondack chair (possibly because through woodsy connections). From Wikipedia:

(#5) Modern Adirondack / bear chair

The Adirondack chair (also sometimes called a Muskoka chair in Ontario, Canada) is a simple chair made of wood or man made materials, generally used outdoors. Originally made with 11 flat wooden boards, it features a straight back and seat and wide armrests. The advent of various man made materials have allowed for this style of chair to be made from polymers and other hard impact plastics.
The first Adirondack chair was designed by Thomas Lee while vacationing in Westport, New York, in the Adirondack Mountains in 1903. Needing outdoor chairs for his summer home, he tested his early efforts on his family. After arriving at a final design for a “Westport plank chair”, he offered it to a carpenter friend in Westport in need of a winter income, Harry Bunnell. Bunnell saw the commercial potential of such an item being offered to Westport’s summer residents, and apparently without asking Lee’s permission filed for and received U.S. patent #794,777 in 1905. Bunnell manufactured hemlock plank “Westport chairs” for the next twenty years, painted in green or medium dark brown, and individually signed by him.
Modern Adirondack chairs usually feature a rounded back and contoured seat, modifications made by Irving Wolpin, who received U.S. patent #109239 for his design in 1938.

Gay bears and their flags. My 5/25/10 posting “Waltzing with bears” has a section on the bear subculture within gay culture. The subculture has a rich variety of institutions, in fact has its own flag. From Wikipedia:


The International Bear Brotherhood Flag was designed to represent the bear subculture within the LGBT community. The colors of the flag are meant to include the colors of the furs of animal bears throughout the world, not necessarily referring to human skin and hair color tones: Dark brown, orange/rust, golden yellow, tan, white, gray, and black. The flag was designed with inclusion in mind. The gay bear culture celebrates secondary sex characteristics such as growth of body hair and facial hair, which is typically considered a “bear” trait.

Craig Byrnes created the Bear pride flag in 1995. Byrnes’ undergraduate degree in psychology involved designing a senior project about the bear culture that has exploded since the early 1980s, of which he had first-hand experience. He thought it might be fitting to design a flag that would best represent the bear community and include it with the results of his research. Four variations were sewing machine-constructed and Byrnes won approval to display the four 3’×5’ prototype flags at the Chesapeake Bay Bears “Bears of Summer” events in July 1995. The winning design is a field of simple horizontal stripes with a paw print in the upper left corner — a layout familiar to anyone who has seen the Leather Pride flag. The colors represent the fur colors and nationalities of bears throughout the world and was designed with inclusivity in mind. It is trademarked.

The Leather Pride Flag:

(#7) Nine horizontal stripes of equal width. From the top and from the bottom, the stripes alternate black and royal blue. The central stripe is white. In the upper left quadrant of the flag is a large red heart.

The Leather Pride Flag is a symbol used by the leather subculture since the 1990s. It was designed by Tony DeBlase in 1989, and was quickly embraced by the gay Leather community. It has since become associated with Leather in general and also with related groups. [BDSM and fetish subcultures] (Wikipedia link)

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: