Modern Fable: Lions and gazelles (Dan Montano 1985 July 6)

Mon Nov 21 00:05:15 UTC 2011

        In the old days at Harvard Law School, incoming students were told "Look to the left of you.  Look to the right of you.  One of the three of you will be gone before the year is out."

        In recent decades, few students flunk out, so some other way had to be found to intimidate the newcomers.  Dean James Vorenberg was notorious for telling them the story about the bear on the first day.  I remember hearing it in 1981, which may have been the first time he told it (ISTR that the student newspaper the next year had a story about it and the fact that he had told it for two years straight).  I had heard the story before when I first heard it from Vorenberg in convocation.

        As given on page 82 of Quote It Completely,, the story goes as follows:

        <<Two hikers looked out of their tent one morning and saw a large, hungry, and athletic-looking bear waiting for them.  After some discussion they decided they might as well make a run for it.  One of them sat down and started putting on his running shoes.  The other said, "Don't you know there's no way you can outrun that bear?"  To this the first replied, "I don't have to outrun the bear--I only have to outrun you.">>

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Jonathan Lighter
Sent: Sunday, November 20, 2011 6:23 PM
Subject: Re: Modern Fable: Lions and gazelles (Dan Montano 1985 July 6)

Me too. But probably only within the past year or so.


On Sun, Nov 20, 2011 at 5:51 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Modern Fable: Lions and gazelles (Dan Montano 1985 July 6)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Nov 20, 2011, at 2:39 PM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>> Even more proverbial than before.
>> On NPR, the top Jeopardy winner of all time explains that, in order to
>> win, "You don't have to outrun the bear. You just have to outrun the
>> other guy."
>> JL
> I've encountered this not as a proverb but as a punchline of a joke:  "I don't have to run faster than the bear--I just have to run faster than you."
> LH
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