I do hope Paul was in the coffin.
What will my student do when someday he’s asked to be a pallbearer for someone NOT named Paul? Will he ask where Paul is?
He didn’t ask that question when he wrote this sentence. What picture was in his mind, if any? Did he imagine these bearers are carrying Paul AND a coffin? Or, since he specifies that these bearers are carrying a coffin, should we wonder if he even knows that “bear” already means “carry”?
Maybe he thinks that a Paul bearer is just someone in a procession, and sometimes this person also carries something, and sometimes that something is a coffin. This kind of assumption might proceed out of the expression “native bearers,” a phrase I used to see in old British tales of safaris and jungle adventures. I knew that no “natives” were being carried: these were not native-bearers, but natives (of Africa) who were doing the heavy lifting, bearing something (either the safari equipment or a dead beast or some lolling white safari-goer too lame or rich to walk). It would be possible, I guess, for someone to think that Paul bearers are not Paul-bearers, but people who are named Paul and who bear things, including the occasional coffin. But then, what happens to people who die but knew no one named Paul? Do funeral parlors hire people named Paul for just such occasions?
I just don’t know. One sure thing is that he has heard the expression but has not (knowingly) seen it written. The other sure thing is that he has written this down without wondering why, or how, someone named Paul is involved in this funeral parade at all.
And that failure to think while writing is how he got into my little book.