Bully-boy
Posted: 12 May 2007 07:13 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Looking for this reference, I came across this rather informative discussion of Oscar Wilde’s friendship and frequent correspondence with the actor Norman Forbes. Wilde reports on his journeys through the American West:

Amongst the letters are a few downright hilarious communications from Oscar during his lecture tour of the USA in 1882 describing California as “Italy, but without the art.” and giving an eyewitness account of the dismantling of Jesse James’ house by souvenir hunters, ("His door-knocker is to be offered for sale this afternoon, the reserve price being about the income of an English bishop...The Americans are certainly great hero worshippers, and always take their heroes from the criminal classes.") and the opening of a new shaft at the Matchless Silver Mine in Missouri which the miners named ‘The Oscar’ in his honour (”...when they saw that I could smoke a long cigar, and drink a cocktail without winking, they [the miners] called me in their simple language “A bully-boy, with no glass-eye”, spontaneous and artless praise being far better in its unstudied frankness than the laboured and pompous panegyric of the literary critics.”

(emphasis added)

http://www.ilab.org/db/detail.php?lang=fr&booknr=340051979

The website is of a book auction and in fact the item to be auctioned is “The Duchess of Padua”, not the letters. The book is inscribed to Forbes from Wilde, and of twenty original copies only five are known to exist. The price is staggering.

So what was a “bully” back then and was it much different from today’s usage?

[ Edited: 12 May 2007 07:25 PM by foolscap ]
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Posted: 12 May 2007 10:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The earliest sense in English of bully is non-pejorative (note the putative etymology, “Etymology obscure: possibly ad. Du. boel ‘lover (of either sex)’, also ‘brother’ (Verwijs & Verdam); cf. MHG. buole, mod.Ger. buhle ‘lover’, earlier also ‘friend, kinsman’. Bailey 1721 has boolie ‘beloved’ as an ‘old word’.”.

I.  1.  a. A term of endearment and familiarity, orig. applied to either sex: sweetheart, darling. Later applied to men only, implying friendly admiration: good friend, fine fellow, ‘gallant’. Often prefixed as a sort of title to the name or designation of the person addressed, as in Shakes., ‘bully Bottom’, ‘bully doctor’. Obs. exc. arch.

b. attrib., as in bully-boy.
1609 T. RAVENSCROFT Deuterom., He that is a bully boy, Come pledge me on the ground.

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Posted: 12 May 2007 10:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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My apologies. In the last few hours the page I linked to has been eliminated and I did not anticipate sufficiently to save the article in its entirety. To my regret. Things happen fast in the blog world.

The price was around a hundred thousand pounds or a hundred fifty thousand dollars.

[ Edited: 12 May 2007 11:26 PM by foolscap ]
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Posted: 12 May 2007 11:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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But here it is in cached version:

Privately Printed as Manuscript. 1883. First Edition. 8vo. 122pp. Privately printed in Paris and limited to 20 copies only.Title page printed in red and black. Bound in contemporary burgundy morocco, titled and ruled in gilt to spine and front board. Front board also bears name of the owner of the book and the recipient of the inscription “Norman Forbes Robertson”. Some loss at base of spine with rubbing and wear to extremities. Plain grey endpapers. Page edges stained red. Internally clean and bright. Shows remarkably well. Inscribed by Oscar Wilde to the title page: “To my dear friend / Norman / Forbes Robertson / From The / Author / Very Affectionately / Oscar Wilde / Aug. 31st ‘83” The recipient, Norman Forbes Robertson, was born in 1858 and died in 1932 in a car accident. The brother of Johnston and Ian Forbes Robertson, masters of the Edwardian stage and heir to a veritable dynasty of British theatricality. The Forbes Robertson family were all friends and acquaintances of Oscar Wilde at some point (Oscar referring affectionately to Johnston Forbes Robertson as “Forby”, his family nickname, in his frequent letters to Norman), and Norman himself was an actor of some stature and a playwright, being responsible for dramatisations of “The Man In The Iron Mask” and “The Scarlet Letter.” His friendship with Oscar Wilde began at some point before May 1879 but was certainly cemented for the forseeable future after an evening in march 1880 where Oscar apparently treated Norman to an account of the trials and tribulations of being Oscar Wilde: “I don’t know if I bored you the other night with my life and its troubles. There seems something so sympathetic and gentle about your nature, and you have been so charming whenever I have seen you, that I felt somehow that although I knew you only a short time, yet that I could still talk to you about things, which I only talk of to people whom I like - to those whom I count my friends. If you would let me count you as one of my friends, it would give a new pleasure to my life.” Wilde went on to invite his correspondant to the Boat Race that year and Norman Forbes Robertson (whose stage name was Norman Forbes during his time with Irving’s Lyceum Company and which could still be found on credits right up until the 1920’s, including a particularly dramatic performance of “Diplomacy” by Sardou, alongside Basil Rathbone) was apparently very happy to join the circle of Mr.Wilde’s friends, and continued a lively and varied correspondance with him until the 1890’s. It is however not known whether or not he was free for the Boat Race. Numerous letters and anecdotes exist detailing their relationship. Amongst the letters are a few downright hilarious communications from Oscar during his lecture tour of the USA in 1882 describing California as “Italy, but without the art.” and giving an eyewitness account of the dismantling of Jesse James’ house by souvenir hunters, ("His door-knocker is to be offered for sale this afternoon, the reserve price being about the income of an English bishop...The Americans are certainly great hero worshippers, and always take their heroes from the criminal classes.") and the opening of a new shaft at the Matchless Silver Mine in Missouri which the miners named ‘The Oscar’ in his honour (”...when they saw that I could smoke a long cigar, and drink a cocktail without winking, they [the miners] called me in their simple language “A bully-boy, with no glass-eye”, spontaneous and artless praise being far better in its unstudied frankness than the laboured and pompous panegyric of the literary critics."). Wilde also expressed joy at Norman’s prospective visit to the US ("You and I will sit and drink ‘boy’ in our room, and watch the large posters of our names. I am now six feet high (my name upon the placards), printed it is true in those primary colours against which I pass my life protesting, but still it is fame, and anything is better than than virtuous obscurity, even one’s own name in alternate colours of Albert blue and magenta and six feet high."). Forbes Robertson was present when Wilde first encountered Sarah Bernhardt in May 1879, histrionic gestures were very much de rigeur for a meeting with Bernhardt, and Forbes Robertson presented her with a gardenia as he and Wilde met her off the boat at Folkestone. Some other worthy was heard to say “They will soon be making you a carpet of flowers.” whereupon Oscar produced an armful of lilies and cast them at Sarah’s feet. Captivated by the gesture, Bernhardt became Wilde’s guest at Thames House, and on one occasion offered to demonstrate how high up the wall she could kick her feet. Forbes Robertson, whilst making a lesser impression on Bernhardt is however, responsible for the livery of the Garrick Club in London, amongst other achievements. He turned up for lunch one day wearing a salmon and cucumber coloured tie, and proclaimed it to be the club’s colours, so many people wanted a similar accessory that the club formally adopted Mr.Forbes Robertson’s suggestion. He also purchased Kent’s largest windmill as a residence and later appeared in no less than two new-fangled moving pictures, both in 1916, one of which was an attempt by J.M.Barrie no less, to depict Macbeth through the eyes of Americans, where the doomed thane was replaced by a character called “Rupert K. Thunder”. Wilde’s bibliographer Stuart Mason claims that just 20 copies were printed for use in the theatre, but he was only able to locate four, including the author’s own copy with corrections. This inscribed copy, which was discovered in a small second hand bookshop on the south coast is not numbered amongst those and was thus unknown to Wilde’s bibliographer. Objects of rarity are seldom as rare as they appear, this copy of The Duchess of Padua would seem to be an exception to the rule.

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Posted: 13 May 2007 02:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Is this Diegogarcity?  Last night I looked up “bully” in the OED and this morning there is a thread on it.  I was wondering if there was any connection between the verb “bully” and bull-baiting, having come across the schoolboy slang to “brock” meaning to bully and thinking that “brock” probably derived from the same place as “badger”, i.e. badger-baiting.

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Posted: 13 May 2007 03:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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"Bully” appeares to have meant nothing but good during that period. According to Cassel’s it meant “good fellow” or “ a companion”. It was not a put down.

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Posted: 13 May 2007 04:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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“Bully” appeares to have meant nothing but good during that period.

Let’s not go overboard.  OED:

II. 3.  a. A blustering ‘gallant’; a bravo, hector, or ‘swash-buckler’; now, esp. a tyrannical coward who makes himself a terror to the weak.
1688 SHADWELL Bury F. IV. Wks. 193 A lady is no more to be accounted a Beauty, till she has killed her man, than the bullies think one a fine gentleman, till he has kill’d his. [...] 1863 DICEY Federal St. II. 245 A low-minded, unscrupulous bully, notorious for his pro-Slavery sympathies.

b. A ruffian hired for purposes of violence or intimidation. arch.
1730 FIELDING Tom Thumb II. i, Were he.. a bully, a highway-man, or prize-fighter, I’d nab him. 1813 SHELLEY Q. Mab. IX. 179 These are the hired bravos who defend The tyrant’s throne—the bullies of his fear. 1848 MACAULAY Hist. Eng. I. 204 A gang of bullies was secretly sent to slit the nose of the offender.

4. spec. a. The ‘gallant’ or protector of a prostitute; one who lives by protecting prostitutes.
1706 DE FOE Jure Div. I. 8 Mars the Celestial Bully they adore, And Venus for an Everlasting Whore. [...] 1817 M. BENNET in Parl. Deb. 861 Would he be less the bully of a brothel?

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Posted: 13 May 2007 04:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I think the only remaining phrase in which bully retains its original benign sense is bully for you!, good for you, well done, still very much in general usage in Southern England.

1864 Sanatory Commiss. U.S. Army 133 note, Others would say ‘good’, and others would use the very expressive phrase ‘bully’! 1864 Daily Tel. 18 Nov., The freckles have vanished, and bully for you. 1883 Punch 28 July, Lady Dufferin, bully for her, mate!

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Posted: 14 May 2007 08:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Bully beef? or does that get its benign sense of ‘bully’ from somewhere else?

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Posted: 14 May 2007 08:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Yes, I thought of bully beef, but it’s not connected.

OED:

? f. BULL, or corruption of F. bouilli boiled meat.]

1753 SMOLLETT Ct. Fathom I. xxiv. 160, I could get no eatables upon the ruoad, but what they called Bully, which looks like the flesh of Pharaoh’s lean kine stewed into rags and tatters.

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Posted: 14 May 2007 03:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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bayard - 13 May 2007 02:22 AM

I was wondering if there was any connection between the verb “bully” and bull-baiting, having come across the schoolboy slang to “brock” meaning to bully and thinking that “brock” probably derived from the same place as “badger”, i.e. badger-baiting.

It seems quite possible the term ultimately came from bull, the animal. Around the turn of the last century the police were often referred to as the bulls, as can be found in Jack London who was a pro-labor socialist and had a rather problematic view of the strike-breaking police. Badger, of course, is common enough in this country, but brock is virtually unknown even in its literal sense. Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe is fond of saying “Don’t gull me” but I am at a loss to remember what it means. (No, it means to trick or dupe. From French for swallow, not another bird, but as in gullet.)

[ Edited: 14 May 2007 04:26 PM by foolscap ]
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Posted: 14 May 2007 04:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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gull ... to deceive or cheat (AHD).

Not that rare as a straight verb, but more familiar as the base of the word “gullible”.

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Posted: 15 May 2007 02:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Now I wonder if that’s why Joyce Carey’s artist hero in ‘The Horses Mouth’ was named Gulley.

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