Q: Where can the word”bear” come out of?
All your questions are answered by our resident bruin expert in our’Ask A Bear’ column.
So there you have itBears were the Voldemort of the Iron Age. Our previous name is not exactly lost, though: It lives on from the brown bear’s scientific feasibility, Ursus arctos, in addition to from the English word”Arctic.”
The English term”keep” comes from the Old English bera. We think that evolved from the term bero, or even”brown one” at Proto-Germanic, a classical language spoken by a set of tribes in northern Europe from roughly 500 B.C.E. And that’s where things get really interesting. You see, the parent language of Proto-Germanic, known as Proto-Indo-European, had its own, distinct word for bear, quite roughly pronounced”hrktos.”
A: Can a bear by any other name be scary? I don’t understand. But I’m awfully proud of my moniker. The word”keep” has a far more interesting history behind it than many creatures’ names–one which speaks to this lengthy and complicated history between us and people.
Why did people suddenly invent a new name to the bear? Back then, before fences and firearms and houses, brown bears were the undisputed apex predator of Europe. Hunters were so cautious of hrktos they came to feel that even talking about them had been asking for trouble. Eventually, linguists believe, the term became so taboo that all American peoples started using a euphemism, bero, instead.
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