‘Drop the Bear’ named Australia’s new phrase of the year

Share via:

CANBERRA, ACT – The Australian National Dictionary Centre has recognised the prevalence of satire and fake news by naming “Drop the bear” as the phrase of the year for 2020.

The word was chosen from a shortlist of five expressions including “Black Summer“, a reference to the catastrophic 2019-20 bushfire season, and “iso-baking“, an abbreviation of an isolation activity during the COVID pandemic.

Amanda Laugesen, chief editor of The Australian National Dictionary, said the term captured the dominance of Australian humour during periods of extreme crisis.

“The phrase is rooted in the popular Dropbear tale, of a mythological koala-like predatory carnivores who can launch from gum trees on foolish tourists.”

“To ‘drop the bear‘ means to tell an elaborate hoax on unsuspecting targets in a way that presents itself as information or news.”

“This usage was perhaps best captured in the viral video of a Scottish journalist covering last year’s bushfires who was fooled by local park workers.”

“This Australian brand of humour has proved vitally important during times of difficulty or tragedy.” 

Variations of the phrase are also proving popular, including ‘the bear dropped’, a play on the English phrase ‘the penny dropped’, indicating that someone has finally understood or realised the intended hoax. Additionally, there is also the notion of ‘poking the bear’ which means to use humour to challenge a significant cultural power such as a politician or media organisation.

Scholars have also pointed to a more ancient root of the phrase, with some claiming that certain biblical stories provided the true etymology.

“In the second book of Kings, we see a fascinating event where the prophet Elisha is being mocked and taunted by a mob of young men,” Biblical scholar Birdy Michaels explained.

“In response he calls down a curse on them in the name of the Lord, and two bears fall upon them and maul forty-two of them.”

“Some might argue that this weird joke by Elisha was the very first instance of someone ‘dropping the bear’.”

It is further reported the phrase has become so popular on conservative T-shirts that the satirical news media company, the Damascus Dropbear, has been forced to simply write the slogan over old shirts with a felt tip pen from discredited lobby group ‘GetUp!’  in order to meet demand.

Sign up to the Damascus Dropbear for more linguistic updates. Click here for further discussion around Elisha and the bears from 1517.org.



The Damascus Dropbear exists to develop satirical news which helps people laugh, then think, about theology, culture, church and politics from a biblical worldview. Our mission is to help others to engage with the Bible, explore questions around religion, and ultimately see Christian principles and ethics inform our society. If you would like to support our project click here.

Most Popular