Bears in the woods

Today’s Wayno/Piraro wordless Bizarro collabo (titled “Confirmed” by Wayno), on one of the two pop-culturally celebrated activities of bears in the woods (picknicking being the other one):

(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 3 in this strip — see this Page.)

According to this cartoon, bears do indeed, as the idiom has it, shit in the woods, but not indiscriminately. Instead, there are designated defecation sites, alongside those facilities — gender-marked portable toilets — specifically for people to shit in the woods; the ones for bears, however, are open-defecation sites (in Bizarro-World, at least).

As it happens, bears have often been cartooned in the woods, especially when bent on defecation; the idiom, both wry and dirty, is irresistibly attractive to humorists.

In my 5/18/19 posting “Ostentatiously playful allusions”, there’s a section on the basis for the sylvursine defecation cartoons: the conventional speech-act idiom Does a bear shit in the woods? / Do bears shit in the woods? (and their variants), conveying assent or affirmation via the fact that the answer to the idiomatic question is a blazingly obvious Yes.

[Brief digression on the semantics of generic presents, like Bears shit in the woods. There’s a range of understandings here, from the neutral assertion that such things happen (bears sometimes shit in the woods); to an assertion that they happen regularly or habitually (in the woods is a common place for bears to shit); to an assertion that this is the usual or normal state of affairs (in the woods is where we expect bears to shit). The backdrop for the idiomatic question is the strong interpretation of the generic present assertion.

But the cartoon requires only the weakest interpretation — just the assertion that bears, like people, do sometimes shit in the woods, so that it makes sense for there to be accommodations for all of them.]

Cartoon variants. In one variant, there’s a porta-bear toilet instead of just a designated spot. As in this (also wordless) Mick Stevens cartoon, #5 in my 6/23/15 posting “Thought balloons”:


In another variation, the bears just use public toilet facilities, including those (quite remarkably) located in the middle of the woods:

(#3) A Mark Lynch cartoon with a porta-john; links to his complimentary nuts cartoons in this posting

(#4) A John Pritchett cartoon with a public restroom; the cartoonist has a website here

Finally, a much more indirect, and wonderfully goofy, John Deering cartoon that presupposes the strong interpretation of the generic present assertion about sylvursine defecation; this bear needs those woods:

(#5) A John Deering cartoon; there’s a Page on this blog with links to my postings about Deering

Sylvursine picnics. The other pop-cultural preoccupation of woodland bears, or at least certain bears, is picnicking; see my 11/17/18 posting “Teddy Bears’ Picnic Day”. A dark 4/26/13 Bizarro take on the matter:

(#6) If you go down in the woods today / You’re sure of a big surprise / If you go down in the woods today / You’d better go in disguise! — implicating that you shouldn’t go (down) in the woods today

God knows what the teddy bears are up to!

(There is, inevitably, at least one slasher flick entitled Don’t Go in the Woods. From Wikipedia:

Don’t Go in the Woods (also known as Don’t Go in the Woods… Alone!) is a 1981 American slasher film directed by James Bryan and written by Garth Eliassen. The story follows four young campers … as they backpack through the mountains for the weekend. The campers are unaware of a woodsman who is running rampant in the woods with a spear killing anyone he encounters in his path.)

(Or perhaps we are to read #6 as having the verb of elimination go; see my 9/11/18 posting “I gotta go”, on the vocabulary of elimination. Though this wasn’t my interpretation.)

A final note. Back with the bears, “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic” and “Waltzing With Bears” (in my 5/25/10 posting) make a link from ursines (even cartoonish ones) to the gay male subculture of bears (see links in the Page on bears on this blog).


4 Responses to “Bears in the woods”

  1. K Chaffee Says:

    I’m not sure what #6 has to do with picnicking. Surely it’s another “shit in the woods” reference; the bear is giving a warning (as we all must occasionally do) that he has just dropped a particularly fragrant load, and that the woods should be left vacant for a while until the aroma has time to clear.

  2. Bob Richmond Says:

    According to a paper I read in Science a long time ago (and can’t Google today), bears come out of the north woods to gorge on migrating phosphorus-rich salmon in season. Supposedly this seasonal feasting is a critical part of the phosphorus economy of northern forests. A definitive answer to an age-old question.

  3. More bears in the woods | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] follow-up to my 11/1/19 posting “Bears in the Woods”, which had 5 cartoons on the theme of bears shitting in the woods, […]

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