Does a bear shit in the woods?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by systema encephale, Feb 19, 2006.

  1. This strange and funny phrase has been taken to my attention. On UrbanDictionary I found out that it is used when it's obvious the answer to a question is YES. I still think it's quite a strange saying, though :)
    UrbanDictionary gives the same meaning for "Do one legged ducks swim in circles?" as well. But I've found other variants which I'm not sure what they exactly mean:
    1. Does a polar bear shit in the woods?
    2. Does the pope shit in the woods?
    What do they mean? Are they answers to question which answer is obviously NO?
  2. Isotta

    Isotta Senior Member

    English, Hodgepodge
    It's like saying, "Yes, you idiot."

    Jim: Are you going to go to the Phish concert in Savannah?
    Ralph (covered in Phish tatoos): Does a bear shit in the woods?! Of course I'm going!

    And I suppose the variants are a product of local colour, and I suppose they would be like saying "no." But it may be ambiguous--I could imagine a person saying, "Does the pope shit in the woods?" to mean "yes."


    And welcome to the English forum!
  3. Thank you very much. I heard those phrases in the game "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" and I wondered what they meant. What about the polar bear and the Pope who, obviously, don't shit in the woods? Do they mean "No, idiot"?
  4. Isotta

    Isotta Senior Member

    English, Hodgepodge
    Depends. Again, I think those two could be ambiguous, and likely indicate the answer is obvious. I could imagine someone saying, "Does the pope shit in the woods?" to mean "yes," as I could imagine a person nodding his head and saying "no."

    I mean, we're not talking about a high register here.

    Hope this answers your question--

  5. Gaverz

    Gaverz Senior Member

    Chippenham, Wiltshire
    England, English
    Is the Pope Catholic is the most common one for a retort that obviously means yes. I've never heard of the ones with polar bears and the Pope relieving them selves in the woods (putting it politely)! Some of the things in Urban Dictionary should be taken with a pinch of salt.
  6. Isotta

    Isotta Senior Member

    English, Hodgepodge
    Well, I could imagine people saying the variants--so I wouldn't discount the Urban Dictionary on this particular ones, but I'd say they are uncommon.

    But yes, the common response would be, "Is the pope Catholic?" and now that you mention it, I bet this is a case of mixed metaphors.

  7. Tabac Senior Member

    Pacific Northwest (USA)
    U. S. - English
    I've also heard, "Does the pope go to church?".
  8. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    None of these expressions mean "No, idiot."

    "Is the Pope Catholic?" is probably the oldest of these "Yes, stupid" expressions. "Does the bear shit in the woods" means the same thing-- I mean, where else would the bear find to shit?

    "Does the Pope shit in the woods" is just a fanciful and hopefully-hilarious combination of the two expressions, and the person saying it assumes you know both of them. He doesn't want to use the same old cliche, so he gives it a twist. Adding "polar" to the other expression answers the same need for variety.

    It's beside the point that the Pope doesn't "really" shit in the woods. For all we know he sneaks out and does that, like the Colosseum cat i' the adage. And the bear's religion might be a parody of Catholicism that he's been cynically foisting off on the world as the real thing, all these years. His little joke.
  9. I.C. Senior Member

    Remember hearing of some racist ones. Wondering whether they could be older.
  10. CAMullen Senior Member

    US, English
    A newer one took on a newer meaning with the elevation of the last prelate: When the answer is obviously "no," "Is the Pope Polish?"
  11. Tabac Senior Member

    Pacific Northwest (USA)
    U. S. - English
    I hope everyone has seen the clever commercial by Charmin, the squeeable bathroom tissue. In the ad, animated bears are "in the woods", and a roll of toilet paper is hanging on the tree. This is obviously inspired by the question at hand.

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