6

I read a sentence in a chapter named "The Last Lesson" which was:

Then he turned to the blackboard, took a piece of chalk, and, bearing on with all his might, he wrote as large as he could: "Vive la France!"

"Bear on" means "to be pertinent" but that doesn't seem to fit here.

Note: Some translations (like this one) use bear down:

Then he turned to the blackboard, took a piece of chalk, and, bearing down with all his might, he wrote as large as he could: "Vive la France!"

but others, such as this version, use bear on:

enter image description here

My question is about the bear on version.

14

This is an extract from an English translation of a French story by Alphonse Daudet (1840-1897), "La dernière classe". It appears in a lot of "international" English learning material. To "bear on" has a rarely used, old fashioned meaning of "apply pressure", usually hard. It mainly survives in a figurative sense: "He bore on her to finish her doctorate".

enter image description here

The original French is this:

lors il se tourna vers le tableau, prit un morceau de craie et, en appuyant de toutes ses forces, il écrivit aussi gros qu’il put : « VIVE LA FRANCE ! »

Personally, I would have translated "en appuyant de toutes ses forces" as "pressing with all his might".

2

"Bear on" as used here is no longer in common use, but you can find related uses still. See also "to come to bear on" meaning to align, usually with military vessels or weapons, and the closely related and still used "bear down", which means roughly "to apply force".

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