With teacher Georgiana since 2011.

#255 Phrasal Verb – To Butter Up


Georgiana: Today, we will discuss the meaning of the phrase “butter up”…

Student: “How interesting, Georgiana! You know I am on a diet, but this morning I had some toast with butter, and let me tell you, it was delicious…”

Georgiana: Sorry to interrupt, but the expression “butter up” has nothing to do with food. 🙂

Let me explain it to you.

Great! Let’s start!

Let’s take a closer look at the expression “butter up” and how it is commonly used.

When someone tries hard to please others to gain their favor or personal benefits in the workplace, it’s known as ‘buttering up.'” 

This behavior can be observed in various professional settings such as offices, schools, and even politics, where individuals go to great lengths to please their superiors or influential colleagues.

A classic example of ‘buttering up’ is an employee who frequently praises their boss, hoping to gain favor or secure a promotion.

Another example is a student who compliments their teacher, aiming to receive better grades or special privileges.

So, how is “buttering up” viewed in Western society? Opinions can differ. On one hand, some people consider it a negative behavior, often associated with insincerity or manipulation.

On the other hand, in certain situations like the business world, some people see it as a useful social skill. They believe that being good at giving compliments and networking can help you progress in your career or create new opportunities. Whether “buttering up” is accepted or not depends on the particular workplace culture and what individuals think.

Here are some other expressions that are similar to “buttering up”:

#1 Sucking up to someone: Excessively praising or pleasing someone, especially someone in authority, to gain favor.

#2 Kissing up or Kissing someone’s boots: Acting overly flattering toward someone in authority.

#3 Playing up to someone: Behaving in a way intended to please or show respect to someone.

#4 Apple-polishing: Currying favor through flattery or servile behavior.

Now, what are your thoughts? Do you believe “buttering up” can be useful? Are you comfortable engaging in such behavior or receiving it from others? I’m not a big fan of it, but I won’t deny that receiving a compliment can feel good from time to time. 🙂



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