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grin and bear it

Posted: Thu Nov 11, 2004 11:34 am
by Archived Topic
I’d like to know more about ‘bear and smile’ and where I could use this.

Submitted by Julie Kay (Bronnitsy - Russia)

Julie, I have never heard the expression ‘bear and smile,’ but I assume that it is a variation of the common expression GRIN AND BEAR IT meaning put up with adversity with good humor, or alternatively deal with one’s pain or misfortune in a stoical manner. The usual modern sense of ‘grin,’ broad smile’ was less sinister than its earlier sense when it, along with its obsolete cognate ‘girn,’ meant ‘an act of showing the teeth’ or ‘a snarl.’ From the mid-17th to mid-18th century, a ‘grin’ was generally used derogatorily or in unfavorable contrast to a cheerful ‘smile.’ The sense of ‘grin’ in ‘grin and bear it’ retains the earlier associations with showing one’s teeth in a grimace of pain or anger.

The expression originated as ‘grin and abide’ where ‘abide’ implies put up with, tolerate. It so appears in Erasmus Darwin’s ‘Zoonomia’ (1794), “We have a proverb where no help could be had in pain, ‘to grin and abide,’” so it presumably was a well-known saying by then. A few years earlier W. Hickey wrote in his ‘Memoirs’ (1775), “I recommend you to grin and bear it (an expression used by sailors after a long spell of bad weather).” It has been a cliché for about a hundred years, well known enough for poet Sam Walter Foss (1858-1911) to pun on it in his ‘The Firm of Grin and Barrett’ (“Never yet has any panic scared the firm of Grin and Barrett”). A good example of its usage would be “It was no fun getting sick while on my vacation, and all I could do was grin and bear it.”

(Facts on File Dictionary of Clichés, Oxford Dictionary of Idioms)

Ken G – May 21, 2004
Submitted by Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)

grin and bear it

Posted: Thu Nov 11, 2004 11:49 am
by Archived Reply
Julie: Ken has performed his usual superb of enlightening on things etymological. But I will add this for some color to his account.
"Grin and Bear It was created by sports cartoonist George Lichtenstein in 1932. In the more than 60 years since its debut, Grin and Bear It has successfully satirized all aspects of "the establishment" with targets such as military intelligence, the greed of big business, and the never-ending stream of political red tape.
When it's not going after bigger fish, Grin and Bear It also deflates the ordinary inconsistencies and absurdities of American morals and everyday life."

Reply from Leif Thorvaldson (Eatonville - U.S.A.)

grin and bear it

Posted: Thu Nov 11, 2004 12:03 pm
by Archived Reply
Thanks for your comprehensive answer!
Reply from Julie Kay (Bronnitsy - Russia)