Politics

Suck up

Article published on Nov. 29, 2007
Article published on Nov. 29, 2007

Autumn is now here, and with it the cold, and it's warm milk with honey that proves its worth as an old household remedy.

The German expression Honig ums Maul Schmiere however has nothing in the slightest to do with autumnal cold, but describes people who flatter others to gain their own favour. Honey is as sticky as slime - (aka du Schleimer! ('you slime'), the German version of you suck-up!). And it's hard to get slime out of 'sweet wood when you grate it' - which is the literal translation for sweet-talking someone (Süssholz raspeln) in German.

The French suck up to people in great (hair)style. They passer de la pommade à quelqu'un, rubbing up a conversational partner with 'pomade', another sticky substance used in hairgel and wax. An Italian version of a brown-nose is to essere un lecchino ('be a licker'). Together with the Spanish hacer la pelota a alguien ('crawl up somebody'), the hot Mediteranneans gently lure their conversational partners into security. Italians dupe counterparts too by insaponare qualcuno ('lathering somebody up'), telling them what they want to hear.

From German honey, French hairgel, Italian soap and saliva (!) to good old British butter. The Irish butter someone up by turning on the blarney. The word 'blarney' appeared in the eighteenth century from the same-name village in the south of Ireland. The legendary 'blarney' stone is set in it's fourteenth century castle near Cork, where the term became popular when the castle owner persuaded Queen Elizabeth not to take possession of his home.