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Episode 30 - Transcript


Hello, I'm Jacek Olender, and this is PoLoop Angielski Podcast. For more materials for learners of English and the transcript of this episode, go to my website,


This episode is going to be about toadies. And no, I'm not talking about the kind of toads you might find in a pond or on a plate in a French restaurant. We are not going to talk about frogs, or any other amphibians. Instead, we'll be talking about people who are always eager to please their superiors, even if it means throwing their colleagues under the bus. Toadies are people who praise their bosses and teachers or other people in authority in a way that is not sincere. Why? Because they want to get something from them. A formal word to refer to such a person is a sycophant, but a popular term is a toady, so sycophants are toadies. Actually, if you are looking for colourful terms to describe such a person, there are plenty to choose from, and you will learn a lot of them in this episode. Today, we're also going to look at many English words and phrases which you could find helpful when describing the behaviour of those brown-nosers, suck-ups and apple polishers. And if that's not enough, I'll share with you a finding from a study, which, surprisingly, claims that toadies might positively influence your workplace.


But first things first. Why is someone who is constantly sucking up to the teacher or cozying up to the boss called a toady? Well, in the old days, long before the antibiotics and RNA vaccines, the tasks performed by your GP, your family doctor, were executed by charlatans. But how could you find a good charlatan before the internet was invented? You couldn't just google them. So the news about good charlatan practices spread by word of mouth. And it helped the charlatan a lot if he could show people his strength and skill in dealing with illnesses. Their success rates in healing patients might have been mediocre in those times. I don't think the recovery rate of patients was very high, but charlatans had a trick, had a way of advertising their practices. They could eat a toad, which was considered poisonous, then, if they could survive that experience, they could claim those special healing powers. But what if the toad was not particularly yummy? Charlatans had a solution. They employed helpers, guys who would eat the toads, or pretend to eat them, and then show that nothing happened to them because of their charlatans' healing powers. Those charlatans' assistants came to be known as toadies, and later the word started to be applied to anyone who was ready to suffer a great deal of unpleasantness in the service of an influential person, in order, of course, to advance themselves - a person who would do anything to curry favour with those in power for the approval. By the way, "to curry favour with someone" is an idiom, which means to get someone to like or support you by praising or helping them.


There are many colourful synonyms for a toady. So let me guide you through some of these delightful words and expressions. And let's start with a brown-noser. The word is more derogatory and vulgar then a toady because it brings to mind the idea of someone kissing up to another person, with their nose very close to another person's buttocks. So brown-nosed people try to ingratiate themselves with people in authority. To ingratiate yourself with someone means doing things to make someone like you because you know they could be useful. Brown-nosers compliment their bosses, do favours for them and agree with everything they say. Which brings us to another term, a suck-up. A suck-up is a person who is too survile and behaves in a way that is highly submissive or obedient. Imagine that you have a horrible, demanding and unfair boss. You could be seen as servile if you always do what the boss says without questioning or expressing your own thoughts or feelings. So a suck-up, tries to ingratiate themselves with a person in power. A suck-up can also be called a yes-man or a yes-woman, a flunky, a lackey, a bootlicker or a lickspittle. Personally, however, I'm a fan of the term that is often used in a school setting. And the term is an apple polisher. An apple polisher brings to mind the image of a student frantically polishing an apple he later gives to the teacher for a better grade or special treatment. Good old times. Now, something like this never happens when you teach English online. No more apples from students.


Okay, are toadies motivated by a simple desire for power and prestige? Are they willing to sacrifice their integrity just to get ahead? Well, some psychologists believe that toadies may suffer from a form of anxiety which causes them to doubt their own abilities and seek constant validation from those in authority. Even more surprisingly, the presence of crawlers, yet another term for toadies, might actually have a positive impact. Columbia Business School conducted a study on how the presence of certain personality types affects the performance of a team. The research found that teams performed better when they have some crawlers among them. It could be that brown-nosers trying to ingratiate themselves with their bosses unintentionally help their teammates too. The study calls them upward influencers. So if you need a term that could put a positive spin on brown-nosing you might call a toady an upward influencer. However, before you change your opinion about your team's suck-ups, and other finding from the same study claims that too many crawlers can be a bad thing. Team members may end up competing with each other for recognition instead of getting work done. So to sum up, having a few people who are good at impressing their managers can be helpful for a whole team because it ensures that a team's hard work becomes visible to a higher-ups, but too many lackeys too many brown-nosers ruin the team's spirit. Now I know what you're thinking. You're probably saying to yourself, I would never be a toady. I have too much self-respect. But the truth is, we've all been toadies at some point in our lives. Maybe we've flattered a boss to get a promotion, or we've lied to a teacher to get a good grade. The important thing is to recognise when you're toadies, and to resist the urge to ingratiate ourselves at the expense of others.


Hope you'll remember toadies, brown-nosers, suck-ups, apple polishers, lickspittles, and all those other delightful terms for people who can't resist ingratiating themselves with those in power. If you feel overwhelmed by all of this new vocabulary, listen again and take a look at the transcript, the link to which you can find in the notes. I hope you've enjoyed this episode of PoLoop Angielski. And remember, the best way to ingratiate yourself with me is to share the link to this episode with your friends and colleagues. That's it for today. Until next time, happy learning! Bye

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