- bully (n.)
- 1538, originally "sweetheart," applied to either sex, from Du. boel "lover, brother," probably dim. of M.H.G. buole "brother," of uncertain origin (cf. Ger. buhle "lover"). Meaning deteriorated 17c. through "fine fellow," "blusterer," to "harasser of the weak" (1653). Perhaps this was by infl. of bull, but a connecting sense between "lover" and "ruffian" may 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, jolly, admirable" (esp. in 1864 U.S. slang bully for you!) is first attested 1681, and preserves an earlier, positive sense of the word.
- (from The Online Etymology Dictionary at http://www.etymonline.com )
Who would have imagined that the word "bully" as we know it, today, stems from a word that originally meant "sweetheart," "lover," or "brother"?
In her book Bubba & Giganto: Odds Against Us, author Lea Schizas explores the growing pains of adolescence. The mother of five, Ms. Schizas has created believable, three-dimensional characters that illustrate the harmful, dangerous consequences of bullying at school, without demonizing the bully, himself.
First, there's Bubba. "Bubba" dates back as far as 1839, a variation, perhaps, of the American English colloquial term "bud," used to refer to "a little boy," or maybe from the German, "bube," meaning "boy," or from the English word, "brother." Common slang in the southern U.S., the nickname "Bubba" can have connotations ranging from "good ol' boy" to "uneducated simpleton." The foundations for bullying have been laid on far less solid ground than that; one wonders what possessed this kid's parents. We agonized over names for our children even before they were born, testing each for it's potential corruptions and nasty connotations. There isn't much you can do to "Katherine" or "William." Ironically, my son's first "words" were "buh buh buh buh buh buh buh..." and, without thinking, I started calling him Bubba. Some parents go out of their way to give their kids bully-fodder names. A recent court case in New Zealand involved a girl whose parents named her "Talulah Does the Hula from Hawaii."
The judge criticised parents who give their offspring bizarre names, saying it exposed children to ridicule among their peers.
"The court is profoundly concerned about the very poor judgment that this child's parents have shown in choosing this name. It makes a fool of the child and sets her up with a social disability and handicap, unnecessarily," he said.
...he said names such as Stallion, Yeah Detroit, Fish and Chips, Twisty Poi, Keenan Got Lucy and Sex Fruit were prohibited by registration officials. Others that were permitted included twins called Benson and Hedges, other children called Midnight Chardonnay, Number 16 Bus Shelter and, the judge added, "tragically, Violence". Another mother tried to use text language for her child's name, he said.
Then, there's Giganto, whose real name is David. An innocuous "giant" of a kid, David is gentle and good-natured. Most of the kids at Pierson High think David's a good guy, but none are willing to stand up to Jason, Patrick, or Don - three soccer players who delight in tormenting the boy. As Bubba and David form a friendship, Bubba, too, becomes a target for their taunting.
There are, I think, two main kinds of bullying: that which stems from a "herd mentality," and that which stems from a "misery loves miserable company" mentality. To be ostracized by the herd is to be cut off from its protection, and the herd naturally ostracizes those who are "different" or perceived as "weak" or "troublesome": the boy with the funny name, the girl with a limp, the quiet, overweight "Giganto" who works up the nerve to try out for the soccer team. The rest of the herd will go along with the leaders' actions, either because they agree or because they fear being ostracized, themselves. Among humans, there is an added component - a need, sometimes, to lash out and make others suffer when we're in pain. Sometimes, when the victims have had enough, they become the bullies, themselves - as Bubba's first meeting with David shows.
Bubba's and David's reactions to being bullied are very different: David is non-confrontational, while Bubba is eager to put the bullies in their place. Both approaches have their flaws - because despite his peaceful nature, David stands up to the bullies' challenge with Bubba - all the while, hiding a secret that could spell tragedy.
Bullies have their secrets, too; ferreting them out may be the key to solving the problem of bullying. Written primarily for kids in grades 4-6, the tale of Bubba & Giganto demonstrates the power of understanding and an opportunity for redemption.
Lea Schizas is the founder of The MuseItUp Club, an online critique community, the Muse Online Writers Conference, and co-founder of Apollo’s Lyre. Each of these venues has consistently been in Writer’s Digest 100 Top Writing Sites since 2005.
For more information on her blogs, upcoming books, zines/newsletters, go here: http://www.leaschizas.com