In The Big Lebowski, when the Dude meets the narrator, the latter says to the Dude:

A wiser fella once said, sometimes you eat the bar, and sometimes, well, the bar eats you

and then the Dude asks if this is some kind of eastern thing.

This phrase seems to appear only in this movie, so I'm wondering what was the inspiration for it, and what is the meaning in the context of The Big Lebowski?

  • 12
    It's bear, pronounced with an accent. [And hopefully the rest of the meaning is clear: You win some, you lose some]
    – Walt
    Mar 4, 2016 at 15:06
  • 1
    No, the transcript of the following link says bar. web.mit.edu/putz/Public/big_lebowski.txt Mar 4, 2016 at 15:12
  • 8
    @vonPetrushev A transcript doesn't mean anything. The subtitles on the DVD use "bear" (IIRC). Also, this script says "bear", though I don't know how real that is
    – BCdotWEB
    Mar 4, 2016 at 15:13
  • 1
    @ChanandlerBong most (if not all) of the questions about the movies by the Coen brothers are tagged with the coen-brothers tag as well. It also helps if someone seaches for content for this tag, and then, in my opinion this content needs to appear as well. Mar 4, 2016 at 15:16
  • 3
    See this. We typically use director tags if the question involves a choice of the director, or something specific to the director. Here, the question is specific to the film so it's not necessary. Mar 4, 2016 at 15:18

4 Answers 4


Bar is an antiquated variation of bear. Frontiersman Daniel Boone, for instance, famously carved on a tree once, after killing a bear:

D. Boon Cilled a Bar on [this] tree in the year 1760.

It makes sense that The Stranger would use such a colloquialism, as he's a sort of personification of the Old West (which is what he means when he says it's "far from" being Eastern). The saying is attributed to baseball pitcher Preacher Roe (though it was possibly older):

After being taken out of a game in the second inning, Roe commented that, "Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you."

The phrase's general meaning is: You win some, you lose some; There are good days and bad. The Stranger says it to the dispirited Dude to try and make him feel a little better.


As noted by others, he's not saying bar, as in a place to get drinks, he's saying bear as in the animal.

The US is full of regional dialects and accents, and the narrator is supposed to be some kind of cowboy type. He speaks with a fairly thick Texas drawl, and the word bear just happens to sound like bar.

For example, take the Ka-Bar style of knife. The reason it's called a Ka-Bar? The company that makes this style of knife once received a letter from a fur trapper with testimony of how he used their knife to defend himself against a wounded bear that attacked him after his rifle jammed. The letter wasn't terribly legible, and of the fragments they could make out, "ka bar" was fairly easily understood to mean "kill a bear".

The bear is a metaphor for life, and the phrase thus generally means, "Sometimes you win at life, and sometimes you lose."


Y'all are thinking too deep on this one. The meaning of the saying does not change when substituting 'bear' for 'bar'. However considering how much drinking and drug use is present in the movie and the fact that they are sitting at the BAR while having this conversation, it only adds more flavor to the punchline.

And for those who don't know what 'the bar eats you' means, you must have never gotten thoroughly wasted (and good for you that you haven't, I do not recommend it; in my experiences the bar always wins. Having been sober for nearly 20 years I still sometimes have eerie flashbacks and dark memories).

  • 3
    Personal experiences aside, it doesn't make sense to "eat the bar".
    – Luciano
    Oct 29, 2019 at 9:27

I saw this on another site:

This line is yet another example of the Coen Bros. genius as screenwriters. It is an especially clever double entendre. In one sense, the Stranger is merely eliciting the old adage “Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you” with “bear” being pronounced as “bar” due to the Stranger’s southwestern drawl. However, in another sense, “bar” is an allusion to the Jungian model of the human psyche where the bar represents the divide between the conscious and the unconscious. Thus, the Stranger is also saying that sometimes the conscious mind is in control of the psyche, and sometimes the unconscious mind is in control.

Jungian model

*In case you haven’t yet noticed, the Jungian model of the psyche happens to resemble a bowling ball. This is no coincidence.

  • 2
    "This is no concidence." [citation needed]
    – mdrichey
    Oct 31, 2019 at 20:55
  • Looks more like a Poké Ball to me. I'm sure that's no coincidence... think about it. ;-)
    – Fauxcuss
    Dec 5, 2023 at 20:34

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