It’s A Cop-Out

31 October 2012

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”.  

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  1. We;ve seen quite a few instances where not only is spelling way off and proof reading is apparently non-existent , but where words are used where their real meaning is apparently not known or understood. So we had the adjective applied to an article on Liberty’s business which was more than just plain wrong. Perhaps bullying is one of those words? On second thought, my guess is that it is all part of the plan, along with charging for ads not ordered, possible trading while insolvent and other shenanigans.

  2. As a workplace trainer, I once attempted to explain to a group of long-term unemployed men that harassment (and bullying) is in the eye of the “victim” not the mind of the perpetrator! Some of them were having none of it and deemed it a man’s right to look at a woman lustfully at work, tell bawdy jokes and hang soft-porn where a woman had to pass.

    In the same workplace, one of my male colleagues kept punching me lightly on the arm as he passed me. I recognised it for what it was, a friendly gesture from a man who didn’t know how to express his friendship in any other way. I just kept telling my co-worker, calmly but firmly, that I didn’t like it and he was to stop. He did eventually. Another woman in the same situation could easily have reported him for harassment and she, too, would have been right!

    On the other hand, my daughter felt that some of the teachers bullied her. They may not have thought so but since it left her feeling weak and vulnerable, they were! They, after all, had the social power and there are better ways to get the best from students than to verbally harangue them!

  3. Calmly and repeated asking for my goods or money back from someone who has stolen them, either in writing or verbally, is not bullying. Warning others, privately and publically, to avoid that person to prevent them having their goods or money stolen is not bullying. Pursueing the return of my goods or money, which has been stolen from me, to the fullest extent of the law is not bullying either.

  4. Being called to account is not bullying. Bullying is when it leaves the person on the receiving end feeling very upset to the extent where it’s there all the time. My daughter had a friend in primary school who was her best friend. This girl sent my daughter notes telling her she was her Best Friend Forever. Then a new girl started at school. Daughter’s best friend decided that the new girl was preferable to my girlie and told her so. Daughter was upset. Another mother suggested to me that this was bullying. I laughed and replied (and explained this to my daughter) that it certainly wasn’t bullying. Certainly it was upsetting for my daughter, but that feeling passed within a few weeks and she had other friends and now that she’s in high school she’s made even more. It wasn’t bullying (in my book); the behaviour of DD’s former best friend was spitefulness. It’s a bit like claiming when you feel down in the dumps that you have Depression. Yes, we all feel a bit down (one definition from dictionary.com of depressed is “sad and gloomy; dejected; downcast”) but that isn’t the same as being clinically depressed. Interestingly, the fourth definition of ‘depression’ on dictionary.com is “being or measured below the standard or norm” which I have to admit did make my smile (in a wry way).

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