Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
March 9th, 2015
Episode 130 of 830 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 09, 2015 is: apple-polish \AP-ul-pah-lish\ verb 1 : to attempt to ingratiate oneself : toady 2 : to curry favor with (as by flattery) Examples: "There still might be time to apple-polish the boss." Garry Smits, Florida Times-Union, October 30, 2008 "One of the reasons unions (and step increases) exist is to eliminate cronyism or favoritism. No teacher has to apple-polish the principal to get a raise." John Jones, Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, June 11, 2011 Did you know? It began innocently enough: a shiny apple for the teacher, a young student's gift (OK, bribe) given in the hope that classroom high jinks would be forgotten or forgiven. The college students of the 1920s tried a more sophisticated version of the trick, polishing professorial egos with compliments in the hopes of getting a better grade. Because of its similarity to the "apple for the teacher" practice, college students dubbed that grade-enhancement strategy apple-polishing. But the idea quickly lost its luster and by 1935 the verb apple-polish had picked up negative connotations. Nowadays, the apple-polisher (academic or otherwise) is viewed in the same much-maligned class as the toady, sycophant, and bootlicker.