Saturday, June 4, 2011

Bully Pulpit

File this under Things an English major thinks about while watering the garden at dawn.

For years and years, I've heard the term 'bully pulpit' used to mean that a person in high public office uses his power to bully others into doing his/her will. 

And I've said to myself, in my nerd-like English major way, "No! The phrase was first used by President Theodore Roosevelt and back when when he called the White House "a bully pulpit," bully meant excellent. In other words, it's a good place to make your views heard -- but there's no suggestion of force.
So I was thinking about this yesterday while dragging hoses hither and yon, and after watering the garden and taking a few more pictures, I went inside and asked Mr. Google. I mean, I knew I was right but I wanted confirmation.

Of course it doesn't matter. Words and phrases mean what people want them to mean. But as a writer (and an English major and a teacher of writing,) I'm picky about words.

Well. Not only does Wikipedia agree with me but Michael Quinion of World Wide Words has this excellent explanation. 
Who says a liberal arts degree is a waste of time?  It fills your head with bits of trivia that come in very handy while doing routine jobs or stuck in a waiting room. I can always entertain myself  while weeding by reciting the prologue to The Canterbury Tales  in Middle English or  remind myself of the Seven Deadly Sins by way of the memnomic  PEWSLAG. Or try to remember the order of and names of Henry VIII's wives...you get the idea.


I can only imagine the discussions my son the philosophy major has with Marigold when he's milking.
Posted by Picasa

17 comments:

Bouncin' Barb said...

Your pictures are oh so beautiful. Love the gardens. What does one think about when milking cows I wonder? haha

Brian Miller said...

haha...i dunno i would not mind listening in on his conversation...i sure did not mind yours...i love words and think on them often as i do the mundane

June said...

I can't recite anything in Middle English, but I do love thinking about words and their origins and the like. I have had the same discussion with myself over "bully pulpit." I'm glad you confirmed both of our ideas.

the idea that words mean what people want them to mean bugs me. I can't STAND it when people use words wrong and then say, "Well, you knew what I meant!"
ACK!

Jon Lee said...

I love this post. It is so me. I was thinking about poems about roses last night while stitching. I am always thinking of something about literature and poetry. I also like your definitive defintion of bully pulpit. I will be sure to use that. I love your pictures. I am starting to take pictures every time I go outside.

Deanna said...

I had never given bully pulpit a thought - but now I have. Lovely pictures. So much work. So much fun. So many thoughts!

Mama-Bug said...

Your gardens look beautiful! Thanks for giving me something to ponder on this morning while I'm snapping my green beans.

Barbara Rogers said...

Liberal Arts educations are the greatest, and I think for about a year of mine I was also an English major, before life interrupted until I could go to art school later on. But I totally love word smith-craft. Unfortunately spelling is my downfall.
Pictures definitely say a few thousand words, and I love the format you use, interspersing with comments about totally different threads. Good mentoring for me! Thanks.

KarenB said...

Divorced, beheaded, died. Divorced, beheaded, survived is what I remember of Henry's wives!

chiccoreal said...

Dear Vicki: The skill-set of the Liberal Arts degree is an invaluable asset in so many ways. Thank-goodness; these skills are somewhat transferable. As life often offers the erudite so many carnival-like twists and turns with multiple streams of regurgative (or purgative) allowance. The potential beyond expectations of the abundantly talented who are never at a los for words and ideas. The key is; versatility in veritas. ps LOVE your Victory Garden..the set up is wonderful the setting; paradisical (is this a word?).

Martin H. said...

But what does Marigold have to say?

jennyfreckles said...

Sounds like your brain occupies itself with much more interesting things than mine does when it's only half-utilised on the job in hand. Though I did find myself silently reciting long-buried remnants of poetry the other day, triggered off by seeing a painting.

Friko said...

'Bully For You'.

See, i know what bully means too.

Tess Kincaid said...

Bully post. WT's a huge Teddy fan.

Vicki Lane said...

Re the milking time conversation -- I won't swear to it but I may have heard a voice from the milk shed saying, "That's all you know, you ignorant cow. It was Kierkegaard!

The media has used 'bully pulpit' to mean bullying from a position of authority so much that it's acceptable to most people. That's how language changes. Remember when gay meant cheerful?

Good one, Karen B.!

Thérèse said...

Yes language changes but I am glad to read what people mean when they use certain words...which give me a new way to look at things and it helps me perfecting the small knowledge of English I have.
Your garden seems to be a pretty good source of stimulation!

Suz said...

hee hee
but really that view is so awesome
the mist rising down the road...oh my

Merisi said...

Love every thought you share!