Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Where The Bear Sits In The Buckwheat

Posted by Elyse Bruce on June 5, 2014

WARNING:
THE FOLLOWING POST MAY NOT BE
SUITABLE FOR MINORS DUE TO CONTENT.

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Where the bear sits — or stands — in the buckwheat means that the speaker is being very direct and straightforward in explaining a position that the speaker feels addresses an important matter.  Not surprising, there’s a variation on the idiom that substitutes a ruder word for sit.

Connecticut psychotherapist, Gary Greenberg used the ruder form of the idiom as the title of a blog article on his site on September 4, 2013 as he wrote about his book titled, “The Book Of Woe: The DSM and the Unmaking of Psychiatry.”

In Vyvyan Rothfeld-Brunst‘s poem “The Bear In The Buckwheat” the ruder version is used in the second stanza:

And sure, it could be that for him
there was no connection.
When he came out with the line one morning
at a sales meeting, off-hand and slightly abashed,
like a good Canadian, it was:
“So I told him where
the bear sh*ts in the buckwheat.

What’s interesting is that the poet claims in the first stanza that Cape Breton (Canada) is the “only place” she “tracked the phrase.”

James P. Leary, professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the Scandinavian Studies Department and the Department of Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies, used the ruder version in his essay, “Hanging Out:  Recreational Folklore In Everyday Life” published in 1983 in “Handbook of American Folklore” edited by Richard Mercer Dorson.  In his essay, he included this passage:

Men at the Ritz and related establishments shake dice, make bets over six packs, buy each other drinks, share “snoose,” and, most importantly, talk.  Discussions and good-natured arguments over politics, economics, morality, meteorology, and athletics are invariably localized, fattened with expressive language (“That’ll show ’em where the bear sh*ts in the buckwheat“), and punctuated by witty aphorisms (“My home is in heaven; I’m just here on vacation”).

While Idiomation was able to find a vast number of anecdotal stories about the origin of the idiom, published versions were nearly impossible to find.  Idiomation is therefore unable to peg a general date when this idiom first came into use.

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One Response to “Where The Bear Sits In The Buckwheat”

  1. John said

    My family comes from a farming background in northern Minnesota. It was a very common idiom (rude version) on both my mom and dads family. They had heard it all the time while growing up. If I had to narrow it down, I mostly heard it on moms side of the family which is German.

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