Bully pulpit

The American political term bully pulpit was coined by Theodore Roosevelt, who was referring to the American presidency, at a time when bully was a slangy adjective meaning great. Today, however, the other sense of bully (one who is cruel or intimidating to weaker people) is usually meant, and bully pulpit refers to a public office from which one can have great influence, by bullying or otherwise. When someone says, for example, that the president should get on his bully pulpit to get legislation passed, they mean he should wield his influence in a forceful and intimidating way.

4 thoughts on “Bully pulpit”

  1. I am not a fan of “changing meanings” depending on a general lack of information, education, or history. A “bully pulpit” is a GOOD (or GREAT, or STRONG, or EXCELLENT, or FAVORABLE) position from which to attempt to make one’s case. I have every intention of continuing to use the term as it was conceived. If anyone becomes confused and believes that I am a bully, they will be sorely disappointed.

    Much like the term “beg (or begging) the question” has recently become a silly way of saying “why did someone not ask the next (logical) question? (Or something similar.)

    I will continue to use “bully pulpit” for its original (non-bullying) meaning, (as I use “beg the question” for not answering the question). I refuse to be “dumbed down” merely because some dimwits are lazy.

  2. It is a well-known fact that Theodore Roosevelt was a fan of
    the word, “bully.” He used it loudly, and often. It’s also a well-known fact that he coined the term “Bully Pulpit.” So why would any thinking person believe that an alternate meaning has come to bear?

    • Because there are many, many, MANY ignorant people in this country. I bet you would find many who do not know when, exactly, TR was president, or would confuse him with FDR. In fact, I don’t think the facts of the origin of “bully pulpit” are as well-known as you believe them to be. I think, rather pessimistically, that our country, especially, is full of poorly-educated people who were shortchanged on the road to adulthood by an ageing public school system much too concerned with teaching “creationism” and other religiosity-motivated nonsense, and falsely promoting “self-esteem” by just handing it out instead of asking people to work for it, and much too little concerned with rigor, standards, and asking more of our students, rather than less, as if they lacked the capacity their parents or grandparents CLEARLY had.


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