Saturday, June 2, 2012

What's in a teddy bear? from Gretel

Dear Word Spy, 

I've got a new teddy bear. Okay, I know I'm too old for a teddy bear. But anyway I need to give him a special name. Maybe I'll send you a photo. Have you got any ideas for a name?

your fan 


Dear Gretel, Hey nobody's really too old for a teddy bear! (You should see how many are sitting on my sofa.) Hmm, as for a name. Let's see. Here's some ideas.

The word "bear" comes from Old English and originally meant "the Brown One" which sounds a bit scary. But in Russia, where the bear is a national symbol, the word for bear Медведь (MedVED) actually means "honey eater" (like Winnie the Pooh!)

Another word for bear is "Ursus" - that comes from Latin. And then "Ursulus" means little boy bear cub, and "Ursula" means "little girl bear cub". (Something familiar about that name...)

In ancient Greek the word for bear is Arktos. This is where we get the names "Arctic" and "Antarctic" from. Not because of polar bears in the snow, but because of stars in the night sky in the shape of two bears - the Big Bear and the Little Bear. These are very northern stars, and the Arctic Circle was named because it was the most northern place on earth. Then the Antarctic (sort of "anti-arctic") is the opposite of this, the most southern place on earth.

But why are there a Big Bear and a Little Bear up in the sky? Aha, that is for my NEXT post...

yours bearily,

The Word Spy

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