The Biggest Bully on the Block
Etymological History of bully
1538, originally "sweetheart
applied to either sex, from Du. boel
," probably dim. of M.H.G. buole
of uncertain origin (cf. Ger. buhle
Meaning deteriorated 17c. through "fine
to "harasser of the weak
(1653). Perhaps this was by infl. of bull
but a connecting sense between "lover
be in "protector of a prostitute
which was one sense of bully
(though not specifically attested until 1706). The verb is first
attested 1710. The expression meaning "worthy,
" (esp. in 1864 U.S. slang bully
) is first attested 1681, and preserves an
earlier, positive sense of the word.
Theres a whole epic novel captured in the history of the word bully.
How did a word for sweetheart turn into a
word for pimp (aka protector of a prostitute)?
How does a word for pimp also mean worthy, jolly,
Several pieces about bullying have appeared in MatriFocus over
the years. Weve focused on girl-group behaviors. Meanwhile, the
U.S. government has become a worse and worse international bully, sometimes
using the finesse of an alpha girl (playing nice while mercilessly wielding
power for her own ends) and sometimes showing the open aggression of the
biggest boy on the playground and his buddies.
Ive read that nothing can be done about a bully in a group. The
group falls apart or doesnt, but the purposes of the group fail,
- A presidential candidate steals an
election, with approval by the supreme court, and walks into office
unchallenged. What a fine fellow.
- A violent event serves as an excuse
for the long-planned invasion of a country with oil resources. That
would have to be bull.
- A CIA agent is outed as political retaliation
for her husbands opinions, and the fall guy is pardoned. Theres
that connection between lover (of his
country) and ruffian (in his behavior).
- Other countries sign the Kyoto accords,
but the U.S. goes right on giving lip service to the environment and
polluting like crazy. By the way, have you deeply considered the phrase
lip service? So heres a sweetheart
deal with the oil and power companies.
- Some people insist that the Bill of
Rights is still in force. (In force is an interesting
term, too.) From Guantanamo to airports to your private phone, the
government is treating the Bill of Rights like an 18th century cocktail
napkin. Is this where brother becomes
harasser of the weak?
- There used to be something called a
balance of power among the major parts of government.
I for one found it reassuring that theyd all have to go nuts
at the same time to get us in maximum trouble. Now, through careful
maneuvering over seven years, the executive branch pulls the strings,
even to the imposition of martial law for any specious reason. Unfortunately
this is more than bluster.
- The financial outfits are set up so
that profit flows to the investors and loss flows to the public.
How worthy, jolly, and admirable of them.
If Constitutional scholars are saying it will take three generations
to recover from whats happened in the past 7 years, wont constant
wars be a great distraction? And will any president be willing to surrender
these seductive powers?
usually write about the personal that is political. Now, I guess, Im
taking the political personally.
An alpha bully, in any group, requires sycophantic betas and other admiring
characters, as well as some omegas to kick around. A group with a bully
fails because the others dont or cant reject their roles.
Things they try:
- For teenagers, changing schools sometimes
works as an escape. I know a couple of people who are planning to
change countries, but its not a common solution.
- For womens groups, its
possible to drop out (unless you earn your living with those people,
live in a small town, cant let go of the groups original
purpose, or get hooked on the longing to change things from within).
I know many people who choose to drop out moving from
one marriage, church, job, or political party to the next. Its
tricky, though, to avoid falling into the same pattern in the next
situation. Bullying is an effective training technique (consider boot
- Some have tried to exclude or encapsulate
the bully. Even if that works for a while, a bully-trained group will
probably find itself pushing another bully to the fore, though they
swore they would never stand for that again.
- A friend told me the technique shed
been taught. Treat that person (the bully) the way you treat
the people who deliver the mail. Youre usually at work, so you
dont see them that often. If youre near the mailbox when
they come, you wave or say hello, and they go on to the next delivery.
Thats it. For somebody trying to entrap, coerce, or spin
you, this makes you hard to get hold of. This sounds great for one-on-one
problems, but Im afraid governments flourish in bad ways when
the constituents keep their distance.
- Another method worked for a friend
who encountered a predatory bully at the job shed worked toward
for years. With some coaching, she started wearing a full-length invisible
mirror to bounce negative and controlling energy back to the sender.
The bully gradually lost his authority over her and other people.
- Theres a hacker who loves to
use the web to find and attack the vulnerable. His idea is that if
people became invulnerable to other peoples actions and opinions,
thered be no point in abusing them. As a worldwide solution,
this is desperately creepy. Yet he has a point: Famous people either
learn this lesson or eventually fall apart.
Becoming invulnerable to a bully while staying engaged with what we care
about it sounds hard enough to accomplish in a coven or a committee,
much less a nation. Well seem disloyal (though were not),
evasive (aka hard to spin), inappropriate (acting with more power than
weve been given). Well be taking our lives in our hands
a sensible idea that acknowledges the risks. Bully
- "bully." Online
Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. 8/2/2008.
- A guest said this in June
or July 2008 on National Public Radio’s financial report, Marketplace.
- in the looking glass, courtesy
of Henry Broadbent-Jones.