Expressions used in Everyday Spoken English in Social and Professional contexts

(don't) poke the bear

poke the beardon't poke the bear
1) do or say something that may provoke an angry reaction in somebody
  • How to MemorizePopularity HighProfessional HighSocial
    • don't poke the bear by mentioning that
  • Analysis
    Whether always true or not, the idea of a bear as a fierce and violent animal is well established. This expression uses that stereotype to refer to a person who is highly irritable and therefore likely to react to even a slight provocation in an angry or aggressive way. It tends to be used more frequently in relation to somebody in a position of power or authority, as you are more likely to fear their reaction due to the consequences it might have for you. It is an informal phrase, often said humorously, and is common in both a social and professional context.
  • Social Examples (Advance)
    1. Suzanne's dismissal from her job is a sensitive subject for her, so don't poke the bear by bringing it up when you next see her.
  • Professional Examples (Advance)
    1. In the meeting, Alex decided to poke the bear by taking the boss to task over our working conditions. It really didn't seem to go down well! 
    2. I think we should try to work with our main competitor rather than constantly poking the bear. Together we could corner the market.
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