If You Are Going To Be a Bear, Be a Grizzly

Mohandas Gandhi? George Hyde Preston? Lynda Bird Johnson? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi who famously employed nonviolent strategies has implausibly been credited with the following piece of folk wisdom:

If you’re going to be a bear, be a grizzly.

Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: QI has located no substantive evidence that Mahatma Gandhi spoke or wrote this statement.

The earliest strong match known to QI appeared in a short story called “An Inside Tip” by George Hyde Preston published in “Cosmopolitan Magazine” in 1908. Within the tale the leader of a brokerage firm was planning to drive down the price of a stock, and he expressed his attitude by proclaiming the adage. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI. 1

“Let me see; how many points did the stock go off in the last hour yesterday?”

“Seven, and it closed very weak.”

“Quite so Blair. Now today the word is, hammer it! We have them on the run. Order our brokers to raid the stock. No half measures! If you are going to be a bear, be a grizzly! The sooner it is over the better. The Barnard & Wilkes outfit tried to deceive us, and they have brought it on themselves.”

Preston may have coined the expression; alternatively, the colorful saying may have already been circulating. QI is unsure.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading If You Are Going To Be a Bear, Be a Grizzly


  1. 1908 June, Cosmopolitan Magazine, Volume 45, Number 1, An Inside Tip by George Hyde Preston, Start Page 91, Quote Page 91, (Quotation appears in text and as a caption), International Magazine Company, New York. (Google Books Full View) link