Words Matter: “Rude” vs “Mean” vs “Bully”
Posted October 11th, 2016
By: Kathy Neilsen
Have you ever noticed that words can lose their meaning, or at least their power because of overuse? That happened to us with the word “hero.” Originally, a hero was someone who did something extraordinary, often at great risk to their personal well-being, in the service of a greater good. Think going into a burning house to rescue a family. Now the colleague who goes on a coffee run is the office hero. And how about “awesome”? The word is rarely used to describe something that’s truly awe inspiring and “awesome” has become what “neat” or “cool” were to previous generations.
We’re noticing the same phenomenon with the word “bullying.” Depending on the source, “bully” is roughly defined as “The use of force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, or aggressively dominate others. The behavior is often repeated and habitual.” But that’s not how the word is commonly used now. We often hear kids and parents alike using the word “bully” to describe a person whose behavior, while annoying and sometimes hurtful, falls far short of the definition.
We became so aware of the problem with the use of the “b” word that we resolved to write a piece for the camp website. And then, voila, assistant director Kim McManus sent us this article, which is the article we would have written if someone hadn’t beaten us to the punch! We especially like the distinctions that the author makes between “rude” and “mean” and “bullying” behaviors and the problems that the confusion can cause. We hope you enjoy Signe Whitson’s article which was originally seen in the Huffington Post.