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The difference between a bully and a d*#!

Courtesy of the author

Earlier today at the Pop Culture laboratories, an expansive space between a cube and another cube here at Parenting headquarters, I found myself over by the toddler cages caught up in one of those loose, free-wheeling Friday conversations that hops from topic to topic with little care or concern. During the chat, my colleague mentioned that her son was dealing with a bully at school. She said the kid tells her son things like “your shoes are only medium cool.” When her son mentioned a trip to Disney World, the kid replied, “I don’t like Disney World.”

“He doesn’t sound like a bully,” I said. “He sounds like a d@%#.”

I’m fully aware that bullies can be d$#@s, and d%#@s can be bullies, but they aren’t the same thing. Grand theft and grand larceny are similar (the word ‘grand’), but are not the same. Just like there’s a difference between a girlfriend and a fiancé (several grand), there’s a difference between a bully and a d$#*.

My son recently dealt with a kid at school who wouldn’t let him on certain parts of the playground. That’s a bully. He also has a classmate who says Star Wars isn’t cool. That’s a d@#$.

There’s no question that a bully is worse than a d&*#. All one needs to do is review their respective definitions. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a bully as “a person who uses strength and power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker.” Now here’s the non-anatomical Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition for d#@!: "[noun] anything at all. As in, You don’t know d%$# about this – you haven’t got a clue!”

The disparate, and hilarious, variation between those definitions proves why we need to keep the two entities separate. Hosni Mubarak is a bully, not a d$#@. Donald Trump is a d$@#, not a bully.

Boba Fett? D#@*. Darth Vader? Bully.

Vincent Crabbe in the Harry Potter series? Bully. Professor Snape? D$%#.

Swiper the fox on Dora the Explorer? That’s a close one, but I say d#@!.

There’s an important reason we need to make this distinction: bullies should get the unique, special punishment they deserve. It’s because this distinction didn’t exist that Debbie Johnson - mother of Jeffrey Johnson, a Florida kid who was bullied so mercilessly he took his own life - decided she would grab a stick and draw the line in the sand herself. Thanks to her, we now have House Bill 669, which targets bullying a prosecutable offense in the Sunshine State. (More about Jeffrey’s story here)

Bullying has become a popular term. Google “bully” and you get 50 million search results, almost as many as “Beyonce.” (FYI: “d$%#" garners 216 million search results.) And because bullying is an A-lister in the pantheon of hot parenting topics like vaccines, circumcision, and ADHD, misguided opinions and accusations often take root. So let’s make sure we keep the bullies and d$#@s separate. I’m the doing my part: the Pop Culture laboratories have separate cages for both.