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Sometimes You Eat the Bear, Sometimes the Bear Eats You

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Sarah in Fleming Island, Florida, is curious about the saying sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you, which suggests “it’s a dog-eat-dog world,” or “eat or be eaten,” or more gently, “you win some, you lose some.” Garson O’Toole, who digs into the provenance of quotations at Quote Investigator has traced versions of this saying back to an essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s 1870 essay, “Farming.” Since prehistoric times, the bear has been regarded as a fearsome predator, and today the term bear is often applied to anything that presents enormous difficulty. Another version of this saying is sometimes you hunt the bear, sometimes the bear hunts you. This is part of a complete episode.

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