phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Blow, my bully boys, blow

Posted by Henry on May 08, 2003

In Reply to: BULLY FOR YOU posted by bella on May 08, 2003

: : : : The phrase 'Bully for you' (or him) Means 'good for you' (or him) but where does it derive from? In Shakespeare the use of the word 'bully' is not as we know it to-day. i.e. in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Peter Quince refers to Nick Bottom as, "Good bully Bottom"

: : : You're right. In older times, the word "bully" also had a couple of positive meanings, the only trace of which is left in the expression "bully for you", which is still occasionally used in British English - I can't comment on US English. I've most heard it used in a derisive or sarcastic way, along the lines of "Well then, aren't *YOU* the clever one?".

: : : This from the American Heritage Dictionary:-

: : : bully
: : :
: : : NOUN:
: : : 1. A person who is habitually cruel or overbearing, especially to smaller or weaker people.
: : : 2. A hired ruffian; a thug.
: : : 3. A pimp.
: : : 4. Archaic A fine person.
: : : 5. Archaic A sweetheart.

: : : 1. To treat in an overbearing or intimidating manner.
: : : 2. To make (one's way) aggressively.
: : : 1. To behave like a bully.
: : : 2. To force one's way aggressively or by intimidation.
: : :
: : : ADJECTIVE: Excellent; splendid.

: : : INTERJECTION: Used to express approval: Bully for you!

: : : ETYMOLOGY: Possibly from Middle Dutch boele, sweetheart, probably alteration of broeder, brother.

: : : And from the same source, not to forget...

: : : bully
: : :
: : : NOUN:
: : : Canned or pickled beef. Also called bully beef.

: : : ETYMOLOGY: Perhaps French bouilli, boiled meat, label on canned beef, from past participle of bouillir, to boil, from Old French boilir.

: : Current U.S. usage and context of "Bully for you" seem to be the same as in the U.K.

: And just so we're clear, that's "Bella", with an "a", not bully, which is a term I associate with our US President Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt, whose favorite phrase was "Bully!", meaning "Fantastic!"
: And I always wondered what "bully beef" was, so Thank you!!

The halyard sea-shanty Blow, Boys, Blow uses bully in two senses. In the chorus lines and in one verse the bully boys are ship-mates;

Then blow, my bullies, all together,
Blow, boys, blow!
Blow, my boys, for better weather.
Blow my bully boys blow!

In another verse Bully Hayes is the domineering captain;

And who d'you think is the captain of her?
Blow, boys, blow!
Why, Bully Hayes is the captain of her.
Blow my bully boys blow!

Doerflinger notes the captain is said to be "Bully Hayes, the Down East bucko." The discipline was brutally enforced and packet ships were famed for their fighting mates and the brutal treatment of seamen. Many ships bore the name "bloodboat."

Oh, Bully Hayes, he loves us sailors;
Blow, boys, blow!
Yes, he does like hell and blazes!
Blow my bully boys blow!

And who d'you think is the mate aboard her:
Blow, boys, blow!
Santander James is the mate aboard her.
Blow my bully boys blow!

Santander James, he's a rocket from hell, boys,
Blow, boys, blow!
He'll ride you down as you ride the spanker.
Blow my bully boys blow!