Bully beef

In 2009, Her Majesty’s Government decided to end the traditional use of bully beef in ration packs, especially in high temperature hostile zones. Bully beef (also known as corned beef in the United Kingdom and Ireland) refers to a variety of meat made from finely minced corned beef in a small amount of gelatin[1].

Contrary to popular belief, the “bully” in “bully beef” has nothing to do with the school or workplace bully, rather it’s a corruption of the French bouilli, meaning “boiled”.

The etymology of “bully”, as in school bully, is perhaps more surprising. It first cropped up in the early 1500s as a term of endearment, and its roots can be traced back to the proto-Germanic “bōlô”. According to Douglas Harper’s Online Etymology Dictionary, its meaning deteriorated during the 17th century, through “fine fellow” and “blusterer” to “harasser of the weak”.

Today’s definition

These days we realise that you don’t have to be weak to be bullied and earlier this year (2018), as a result of a campaign by the Diana Award, the Oxford, Cambridge and Collins dictionaries as well as online ones changed their definitions so that they didn’t refer to those bullied as “weak”.

The Anti-Bullying Alliance defines a bully as a person (or group of people) that repetitively and intentionally hurts another person (or group), where the relationship between the two people (or groups) involves an imbalance of power. It can happen face-to-face or online.

There are many causes of an “imbalance of power”. Here’s a short video from the Anti-Bullying Alliance explaining the term.



Bullying behaviour, whether by an individual or a group, can be:

  • Physical – pushing, poking, kicking, hitting, biting, pinching etc
  • Verbal – name calling, sarcasm, spreading rumours, threats, teasing, belittling
  • Emotional – isolating others, tormenting, hiding books, threatening gestures, ridicule, humiliation, intimidating, excluding, manipulation and coercion
  • Sexual – unwanted physical contact, inappropriate touching, abusive comments, homophobic abuse, exposure to inappropriate films etc
  • Online /cyber – posting on social media, sharing photos, sending nasty text messages, social exclusion
  • Indirect – Can include the exploitation of individuals [2]


Cyberbullying can be defined as a form of bullying which is carried out using electronic communication, including through the internet, social media and mobile phones.

The majority of 12-15 year olds now have access to an internet-enabled device, be that a smartphone or tablet, and as these devices can be accessed 24/7 with a vast audience, the potential exists for cyberbullying to have a wider reach when compared with more traditional forms of bullying.

Cyberbullying can take the form of many behaviours including:

  • Harmful messages (text, instant, email)
  • Impersonating another person online
  • Sharing private messages
  • Uploading photographs or videos of another person that leads to shame and embarrassment
  • Creating hate websites/social media pages
  • Excluding people from online groups [3]

The widespread ownership of both mobile phones and internet enabled devices among 12-15 year olds means that the opportunity for bullying to take place is not limited by geography, time, or face-to-face contact… and this is my beef with online bullying, or cyber-bullying. There’s no law against it, it’s difficult if not impossible to police, it can be relentless and at the extreme it can and has lead to suicide.

Choose respect

It’s clear that bullying has been in existence for as long as humans – it seems to be part of the human condition. Social media is often decried as being the cause if not of bullying then of the much-increased incidence of bullying by way of cyber-bullying.

But bullying is a behavioural choice and the way societies behave can be and has been changed. Theo Spanos Dunfey of the New Hampshire University says that “Sociologists define social change as changes in human interactions and relationships that transform cultural and social institutions. These changes occur over time and often have profound and long-term consequences for society. Well known examples of such change have resulted from social movements in civil rights, women’s rights, and LBGTQ rights, to name just a few. Relationships have changed, institutions have changed, and cultural norms have changed as a result of these social change movements”.

Another way of looking at bullying is that it’s a lack of due regard for the feelings, wishes or rights of others. You can disagree with someone, you can not like someone, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t respect them.

And this is the brilliance of the Anti-Bullying Alliance’s theme of “Choose Respect” for this and perhaps future Anti-Bullying week campaigns. By teaching and instilling respect in the young and very young, they will carry this positive behavioural choice through their childhood, into adolescence and beyond to adulthood. And who knows? Perhaps in the future we’ll all respectfully agree to disagree.



[1] Wikipedia

[2] https://www.anti-bullyingalliance.org.uk

[3] Cyberbullying: An analysis of data from the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) survey for England, 2014, Public Health England

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