Sunday 28 February 2010

Word of the month: bully

I, for one, was glad when stories started appearing in the papers last week about Gordon Brown’s alleged bullying. I’m surprised the media made such a big deal of it. After all, you’d think nothing of it if Winston Churchill or Margaret Thatcher had ever been charged with the same thing. As it happened, my relief was that Brown hadn’t wrongly been accused of mobbing.
The other week I came up against another bully, this time a German one. Now before you start thinking I’m going to make disparaging remarks about my eastern neighbours, I ought to explain that this particular bully is quite a helpful beast. Pistenbully is the German name for a Snocat or snow groomer and it is responsible for moving, manipulating and compacting snow on ski slopes and trails, the latter on which grooves or tracks are laid. Quite useful if you fancy a bit of cross-country skiing.
The PistenBully is the trademark of a make of snow groomer produced by the German-based Kässbohrer Geländefahrzeug AG, but it has become the generic (German) name for anything that pushes around snow on a piste. But why Bully? It was the Volkswagen Bus that was first unofficially dubbed the Bully (or Bulli) when it came out in 1950, though its derivation is unclear. One theory is that it came as a combination of the first syllables of the words Bus and Lieferwagen (van). Another version postulates that workers at the VW factory gave the prototype the nickname from the adjective “bullig” because of its bull-like appearance. Apparently the name Bully never caught on in the UK because, as the German wikipedia site for the VW Bus quite rightly points out, „Bullying“ bedeutet Mobbing.