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Google returns results for both variations of this common phrase.

What is the meaning of this phrase, and which one is correct? Is the speaker carrying their shame or are they exposing it? Or is this just a case of two separate meanings?

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It is the same choice of word as this question. –  Kosmonaut Jan 21 '11 at 18:08

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

First of all, it helps to enclose the phrase in quotes when googling:

Secondly, having looked through the first 10 pages of the Google results for "bare the shame", exposing would not work in most of those contexts at all, it's quite obviously carrying. And quite a few of those contexts feature extremely poor grammar and punctuation.

Lastly, while the British National Corpus has 1 cite for "bear the shame", and the Corpus of Contemporary American English has 10, neither of them has a single cite for "bare the shame".

So, to me, the answer is pretty clear: "bare" is simply a common misspelling of "bear", whether in the context of this expression or elsewhere.

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That's what I said... ;) –  user3444 Jan 21 '11 at 15:19
    
I believe the second line should read: "bare the shame" –  kristof Jan 21 '11 at 15:41
    
@kristof: indeed, thanks a bunch. –  RegDwigнt Jan 21 '11 at 15:42
    
Statistical analysis is great and all, but sometimes analysing the syntax and meaning is much more straightforward. “bear” = “carry”, which fits nicely as a metaphor here. “bare” = “naked” … huh? Furthermore, “to bear” as a verb fits syntactically. “bare” as an adjective is syntactically awkward and usage as a verb seems to be virtually non-existent, and looking at contexts shows that “bare (sic) the shame” is never used in a way that could mean “to expose the shame”. –  Konrad Rudolph Jan 21 '11 at 17:16

The common phrase is 'bear the shame', as in carrying the shame. The prevalance of 'bare' on Google is probably a result of misspelling. You would probably say something more like:

He laid bare the shame of corruption.

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Something interesting to note. I don't have any verification of this, but I'm pretty sure the original root for this phrase is from the Bible. When Cain killed Abel and G-d chastised him, he (Cain) says "גָּדוֹל עֲו‍ֹנִי, מִנְּשֹׂא" (gadol avoni minso) - My sin is too great to bear. The word מִנְּשֹׂא (minso) literally means to carry.

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Indeed, the actual phrase "bear shame" is found in a few places in the King James Version, as a literal translation of the Hebrew נשא כלמה: Ezek. 36:6-7 and 44:15. –  Alex Jan 21 '11 at 16:42
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Interesting, but I suggest that “to carry” is simply a convenient metaphor here, it’s used in all kinds of completely unrelated places in the same way. I think the same is true here. –  Konrad Rudolph Jan 21 '11 at 17:17

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