World O’ Words: Real bearcat! Real donnybrook! Heyrube!

World O’ Words: Real bearcat! Real donnybrook! Heyrube!

Congratulations to the College of the Rockies Avalanche, Women’s and Men’s squads, for their victories this weekend past over the Columbia Bible College Bearcats.

“Went to the volleyball this weekend — real bearcat, I tell ya!”

Say what? How did it go? Real bearcat!

My admittedly cursory research does not tell me where the CBC Bearcats came up with their nickname, but, with all respect to the Avalanche, Bearcat is a very cool nickname indeed. That’s because it’s a very cool word, full of multiple meanings and imagery — not least because … well, can you imagine anything zanier than crossing a bear with a cat?

A bearcat is really a small- to medium-sized mammal — a binturong, or a type of civet common to southeast Asia, the most primitive of all the feliform carnivora. And I’ll be d—d if they don’t indeed look like a cross between a bear and a cat, though they are more catlike than bearlike, disappointingly.

A bearcat is also a famous car — the Stutz Bearcat, an American sports car from around the time of the First World War. Its low weight, balance and powerful 60-horsepower “straight four” made it an excellent racer. I’d love to bomb around downtown Cranbrook in one on a sunny day.

“Bearcat,” is also a slang superlative term about as old as the Stutz Bearcat, and it was used to describe of woman of spirit — a “firecracker.”

“Gloria went all bearcat down at the pool hall — she ran the table then broke the cue over her knee.”

Although “bearcat” in this sense is of a 1920s vintage, I remember it being used by my father’s generation to mean things were going really well. Maybe the precise meaning of the term shifted shape over the course of a generation.

“How’s it going out in the field with your sickle?”

“Real bearcat! Almost got that acre scythed down!”

Back in the day, where I come from anyway, they also used to say “real donnybrook!” as well as “real bearcat!”

“How did it go in court for you today?”

“Real donnybrook! They threw my case out!”

A donnybrook is, of course, an Irish word for a brawl. It’s the kind of word that makes fighting sound like a lot of fun, instead of, for example, “a bloody beating where I got my jaw broken.”

Some people are fond of fighting, and even more so of brawls — of donnybrooks — where multiple people are brawling away. For the record, I am not one of those people at all.

A donnybrook is different from a “heyrube” — another great term from the first half of the last century, which survives in the witticisms of sports journalists writing or talking about hockey. A heyrube is another word for a brawl, this of American extraction, and it comes from circus days.

Back when the circus travelled from town to town, unpleasant situations would often arise where the local yokels — the local rubes — would pick fights with the carnies (or vice versa). Carnies, then as now, would stick up for each other — if they saw a fight break out between one of their mates and one of the local rubes, they would rush to join in — presumably shouting “Hey, rube!” in anger as they went. So that word also has entered the lexicon as a synonym for a donnybrook, a fracas, a brouhaha — though you can sometimes say “rhubarb,” instead of “heyrube.”

“Honey, did I hear you were involved in some kind of rhubarb down at the bar last night.”

“Of course not, Dear! I came home early (you were already asleep!).”

“But how did you get that black eye?” etc …

In spite of the deplorable literal situations these words describe (except for “bearcat”) — this is to say, humans inflicting violence on each other — they are wonderfully colourful words to describe how things are going. We must use words like these more often when we were are asked how things are going, instead of “pretty good,” or pretty, pretty good,” or “pretty, pretty, pretty good.” When someone asks you how it’s going, and you say “pretty good,” or “pretty, pretty good,” really, it just sounds like you’re going through the conversational motions.

But when someone asks you how it’s going, and you respond “Re-e-e-e-e-el Bearcat!” they know you are sincere and enthusiastic.

So on that note I wish all of the Townsman readers a real Bearcat of a day!

And back to the Avalanche — the COTR women’s and men’s volleyball squads play their last home match of 2018 this weekend, versus the Camosun College Chargers.

Just Posted

The latest EKASS survey confirms a steady decline in substance use among EK youth over the years. (image compilation via Pixabay)
Latest survey shows steady decline in adolescent substance use over the years

Starting in 2002, the survey has been conducted every two years to monitor changes in substance use patterns, attitudes and behaviors amongst East Kootenay youth.

The Aquatic Centre at Western Financial Place.
Cranbrook Aquatic Center to close temporarily

The annual shutdown of the Aquatic Center at Western Financial Place will begin earlier than scheduled this year and does not have a defined end date at this time.

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

1914
It happened this week in 1914

June 6 -12: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the archived newspapers held at the Cranbrook History Centre and Archives

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Thursday, June 10, mentioned Grand Forks among two other COVID “hot spots” in B.C. Photo: Screenshot - YouTube COVID-19 BC Update, June 10, 2021
PHO Henry says West Kootenay city is a COVID ‘hot spot’ in B.C.

There are 11 cases of COVID-19 in the Grand Forks local health area, according the BC CDC

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read