More bears in the woods

A Leigh Rubin Bears in the Woods cartoon from a few years ago:


A 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, including a Bizarro that is similar in spirit to the Rubin above.

(Hat tip to Susan Fischer, who passed the cartoon in #1 on via Facebook.)

From the earlier posting:


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.

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.

What #1 and #2 share is a sign marking a bathroom for bears — but there are no actual facilities there, only a spot for open defecation. In these cartoons, bears are assumed to be human enough to understand iconic signage and follow its instructions, but not enough to use bathroom facilities designed for humans. (The bears in some of the other cartoons are more sophisticated.)

Now it turns out that Rubin has visited the sylvursine defecation theme at least three other times, with decidedly anthropomorphic bears in each case.

The Three Bears. The bears from the Goldilocks story are highly anthropomorphic: they sit in chairs, eat porridge from bowls, sleep in beds. But it turns out that in their bathroom habits, they’ve preserved a certain nostalgie pour les bois:


Bear Scat. A bear who’s mastered the art of the jazz vocal:


NOAD gives four nouns scat, summarized here:

scat-1 ‘go away, leave’ (usually in the imperative)

scat-2 ‘scat singing’ (see below)

scat-3 ‘droppings’ (especially of carnovorous mammals)

scat-4 ‘a small silvery fish’ (of the coastal waters of the Indo-Pacific region); a common aquarium fish; the family Scatophagidae (‘shit eaters’, so-called because the fish are often found near sewage outlets)

The first three have nothing to do with one another etymologically; and the fourth is related to the third only through their Latin name of the fourth.

On scat singing, very briefly, from Wikipedia:

In vocal jazz, scat singing is vocal improvisation with wordless vocables, nonsense syllables or without words at all. In scat singing, the singer improvises melodies and rhythms using the voice as an instrument rather than a speaking medium.

The Aging Bear. If you’re a bear, you shit in the woods;, everybody knows that. But as you age, those weary bones and painful joints make it hard to get across the room fast, and harder still to make it to the woods in time:


… In the woods, in the woods …

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