Is the Bear Peeking or Peeping?

Earlier this week I mentioned that my mom, in her house in the woods, always pulled her blinds at night because she worried that a bear might be looking in on her. No matter what, she closed off the view. Mom, really? I teased her. A bear cares to look in on you? But I wonder: Those of you who live in the woods – do you worry about that too? If you live next to another house, do you close the blinds every night? Does it matter which room you’re in? Does it matter if you know your neighbors are home?

I also wonder: While looking into someone’s window is a thing, yes, and maybe a thing the someone should be worried about, is it peeping into someone’s window or peeking into someone’s window?

When I mentioned Mom’s blind-pulling, bear-avoiding habit, I suggested that Sarah – poet, artist, writer, friend – would no doubt be able to draw the scene, probably easily. It would flow like water down a hill for her, the pen setting down lines where lines should go, and in practically the blink of an eye she could relocate the image from her brain to a piece of paper and produce a very recognizable image. I was sure of it, even a mite envious of that skill, wistfully, wishingly thinking Oh, to be able to draw like Sarah!

Sure enough, she did it! And priceless it is! In no time at all she sent me a mom-and-bear post-it-note drawing with window between, each occupied but suddenly aware of the other (or so it seems to me). Uh-oh! they each seem to say. Notice how Sarah went beyond a bear peeking/peeping in – we get his personal hygiene routine, the box of goodies Mom’s rummaging through (always goodies in Mom’s case, never junk), the mutual surprise – only creative people like Sarah think of (and successfully execute) these extras! Don’t you love his paunch?!

You tell me. Is the bear peeping in or peeking in? Is Mom doing either?

Sarah's bear drawing.2mp.jpg

Does peep mean to look in furtively or briefly and does peek mean to look in cautiously or slyly, or the other way around?* Both have the idea of quickness, of trying not to be seen, of some measure of invasion of privacy. Does it matter if you intend to look in, or if something simply catches your eye and you glance toward it? Did Peeping Tom set the connotation in stone forever? Is peep up to no good and is peek benign?

Remember Scout and Jem and Dill trying to look in on reclusive Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird? In Chapter 6, see Harper Lee’s choice and also get a little reminder how amazing this book is (in case you have not read it recently). What are the children doing?

“What are you gonna do?”

Dill and Jem were simply going to peep in the window with the loose shutter to see if they could get a look at Boo Radley, and if I didn’t want to go with them I could go straight home and keep my fat flopping mouth shut, that was all.

“But why in the sam holy hill did you wait till tonight?”

Because nobody could see them at night, because Atticus would be so deep in a book he wouldn’t hear the Kingdom coming, because if Boo Radley killed them they’d miss school instead of vacation, and because it was easier to see inside a dark house in the dark than in the daytime, did I understand?

“Jem, please—”

“Scout, I’m tellin’ you for the last time, shut your trap or go home – I declare to the Lord you’re gettin’ more like a girl every day!”

With that, I had no option but to join them.

There are so many elements of this book I would like to talk about – the norms of the time, the things we don’t know, the ways people surprise us, the consequences of actions, the role of fate – another time! For now I wonder if Harper Lee chose peep on purpose. I don’t want to split hairs about meanings, but words can get us in trouble sometimes, and our own understanding is not always someone else’s understanding. I want to know what y’all think about peep vs. peek.



*Merriam Webster says it’s the other way around. They assign “slyly” to peep and “furtively” to peek. Are sly and furtive that different?

11 thoughts on “Is the Bear Peeking or Peeping?

  1. Great drawing!
    I don’t know what you call it (peeping or peeking) but most people just can’t help themselves. It’s like a moth drawn to a light.
    We live on 15 acres, and yes, we close our blinds/curtains at night, but we have neighbors we don’t trust and suspect they do a lot of roaming at night.


  2. LOL! The bear drawing got its own post! A post on a post-it drawing. I’m deeply honored! And a trifle embarrassed…
    I love your take on it!
    I’d intended for him to be eating berries but it really looks like he’s brushing his teeth, I actually like that better. It’s even more awkward, hahaha.
    As for peeking vs peeping, subjectively:
    I always imagined peeping to be more morally wrong than peeking. That’s why it’s sly, because there’s an element of trickery involved perhaps. You only peep at things which you know someone doesn’t want you to see.
    Peeking seems more innocent to me. Sometimes you can sneak a peek at something and nobody would mind. There’s less at stake, somehow.
    Of course they’re nearly interchangeable.


    • Oh golly! Now that I look, I see the berries! Truthfully I termed it “personal hygiene” because I was unsure if he was brushing his teeth or using one of those sticks with the little flossers on the end 🙂 Berries makes so much more sense! I can only dream of my own berry bushes being that tall though, which is probably why I didn’t think of it. I should have remembered the ones we picked from in Vermont one year. Anyway, I completely agree about peek vs. peep. In fact I find myself doing a mental check when I am about to use one or the other, usually choosing peek for the quick look (not wanting to imply anything untoward and risk being misunderstood) and peep for the sound chicks make 🙂
      I’m so delighted you enjoyed the post! I’m the one who’s honored here though — remember YOU are the one who kindly made the drawing for ME! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Is the bear brushing his or “her” teeth? Or……..have they looked into the bathroom window too????? They would have either “peeped” (taken a quick look) or “peeked” (taken a long hard, sly, longing look).. I really think it’s a “he bear” getting his jollies. The surprise on the Mom’s face is telling me this. Adorable sketch-so clever.


    • I love how we each have a slightly different take on peek and peep! Or what an expression says. Or what window it is. I love how we each bring our own experiences and understandings even to an adorable drawing. Thanks, Mom!


  4. Love the drawing. It looks like the bear is embarrassed that the woman is looking at him while he is brushing his teeth. After all, her house was built in his woods.
    I’ve lived in neighborhoods all my life. Opening and closing window shades has always been a daily routine. This has served several purposes. First as mentioned is privacy. Next is energy conservation. Horizontal blinds can be adjusted to keep the hot sun out in the day and reduce the cold draft from the windows at night. Finally, this routine is also a good security measure indicating someone is home. This was particularly important were I grew up in NJ. In the 22 years that my family lived there by the grace of God our house was the only one around us that had not been burglarized.


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  6. Oh, this is wonderful! I love the bear and the woman caught in that awkward moment of “Are you looking at me?” Great job to Sarah! Also, I love that you’ve thought over the difference between peep and peek. I, too, think of peek as a quick look. When you’re caught peeping, however, “Peeping Tom” “peep show”, there seems to be a negative moral implication to it unless, as you say, you’re a lil’ chickadee! This was fun! Mona


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