November 4, 2020
#2381: The True Name of the Bear
[Megan walks in front the left, looking down at her phone. Cueball and Ponytail are standing next to each other.]
Megan: Wow - according to the internet, we don’t know the true name of the bear.
[Gretchen McCulloch, drawn with short, curly hair, comes on-panel from the right.]
Megan: Apparently there was a superstition that saying its name would summon it. “Bear” and “bruin” mean “the brown one.” Its actual name has been lost.
Ponytail: Gretchen, is this for real?
[Zoom-in on Gretchen.]
Gretchen: Well, sort of
Gretchen: The Proto-Indo-European root was *rkto-
Gretchen: It was lost in the Germanic languages like English, but survived elsewhere, e.g. Greek “arktos” and Latin “ursus”
[Back to the second panel, with Megan holding her phone down, Ponytail with her hands in the air, and Gretchen with her hand on her chin.]
Megan: So could we figure out what the word would have been in English?
Gretchen: Hmm. I mean, we’ll never know, but given Germanic sound shifts, a reasonable guess might be “arth”?
[The panel zooms in again to Gretchen.]
Ponytail (off-panel): Stop! AAAAA!
Ponytail (off-panel): Don’t say it!
[Ponytail is holding her palms out. Megan is no longer in the panel.]
Ponytail: What have you done?
Off-panel noise: ROAR
Gretchen: Oh no