I used to blog regularly about words that are misused/over-used/annoy me – and another one is starting to bug me so I thought I’d resurrect that chain of blog posts.
Bullying is “the use of force or coercion to intimidate others and involves an imbalance of social or physical power.”
But just because someone has some sort of power over you, does NOT mean that their demands can be construed as bullying. One woman told me how her boss bullies her, but when I’d heard the story, I think her boss just wanted this woman to do her job, efficiently and in a timely manner. That is no more a form of bullying than my demanding a shopkeeper refunds my money because he’s sold me shoddy goods. Every person making a demand against another is now being described as a bully.
We hear terrible stories on the news about children being “bullied” but when the story unfolds, it often involves the child being beaten by other children and other dreadful physical abuse. In my book, being taken behind the bike-shed and thrashed daily is at the very least assault. If I waylaid the shopkeeper who’d sold me shoddy goods and bashed him with a cricket bat, I don’t think anyone would describe that as my bullying him – least of all the police – that’s GBH in any language.
So we’ve upgraded the word to mean any form of assertive demand on the one hand. And on the other, we’ve downgraded it to mean assault against another, if both parties are children.
I’ve never been bullied, despite the fact that at school I was small, wore glasses and was generally the new girl (I went to a lot of schools!). If it happened to me now, I think I’d be able to deal with it. Children of course find that more difficult and it’s not unusual to hear of child suicides which is just so appallingly sad.
I’ve been accused of being a bully by “She Who Cannot Be Named” (simply because I don’t know which name to use now – she currently appears to have five of them to choose from). I’m not a bully and never have been. And where’s the “imbalance of social or physical power”?
It’s a cop-out which roughly translated means “I don’t like what you’re saying”.