Phrase of the Week – ‘Butter Someone Up’



Come on, we’ve all done it. 

You’re a kid and you want something, so you tell your parents you love them and that they’re the ‘bestest parents ever’. 
You know there’s a job opening or promotion at work, so you start buying coffees and lunch for your boss, appearing enthralled with the details of their latest fishing trip on the boat that cost more than your house. 

You ‘butter them up’, usually to get something you want. So, where does this phrase of fruitful flattery hail from? 
Well, it’s not literal…sort of. You can put the butter away if you were intending to smear it on your boss for a promotion. 

*Editor’s note: a combination of butter smearing and flattery has not been trialled, and may, in fact, result in promotion. 

We’ve done some digging, and there are a couple of possibilities for the true origin of the phrase.
The first indication of its meaning derives from India, circa 1600BCE where people were said to have hurled balls of ghee (exceptionally tasty clarified butter) at statues of their gods. They believed that this would render them in good stead with the gods (enough to ask a sneaky favour), or result in general good fortune. 

**Editor’s note: hurling ghee at your boss may result in the polar opposite of a promotion.  

The second possible explanation for the phrase (although much less entertaining), is simply that smothering someone in flattery makes them nicer (and susceptible to gentle coercion). This is likened to smearing butter on bread to make it smoother and tastier, gently coercing it into your stomach.

Whatever the correct origin, we can all agree that butter makes everything (perhaps people included) generally better.