curry favour = einschmeicheln, anbiedern; sich durch Schmeicheln beliebt machen
“China’s shameless methods for holding sway among small Pacific island states are no secret. Yet the level of detail Mr Panuelo provides is remarkable—and surely deeply embarrassing for China. ‘We are bribed to be complicit, and bribed to be silent’ he writes. He describes Chinese envelopes of cash and offers of trips by private plane to CURRY FAVOUR among politicians and administrators who ‘advance their personal interest instead of the national interest’. ”
Banyan / Asia — The Economist, ‘Micronesia takes on China’ (Mar 16th 2023)
- to praise someone, especially someone in authority, in a way that is not sincere, in order to get some advantage for yourself
The Cambridge Dictionary
The term “curry” in this context has nothing to do with the spicy Indian dish. Instead, it originates from the Middle English word cury, which means “to comb or groom,” particularly in reference to horses.
The phrase’s origin is based on an old French poem titled “Roman de Fauvel,” written by Gervais de Bus and Chaillou de Pesstain in the early 14th century. "Fauvel" is a horse, and his name is a play on words, as it is derived from the Old French words faux (false) and vel (hair). The character Fauvel is an allegory for deceit, corruption, and cunning behaviour. In the poem, Fauvel rises through the ranks of society by manipulating and flattering those around him.
The expression curry Fauvel (to groom Fauvel) emerged in the English language during the 16th century, which later transformed into “curry favour”. Over time, the phrase lost its association with the original poem and became a common idiom to describe the act of flattering or ingratiating oneself with someone to gain their favour or approval.
1. Thomas Wolsey and Henry VII: Thomas Wolsey was an English clergyman who rose through the ranks to become a cardinal and the Lord Chancellor of England. He successfully curried favour with King Henry VII, using his administrative skills and diplomatic finesse to gain the king’s trust. Wolsey later continued to serve under Henry VIII, becoming one of the most powerful figures in the Tudor court.
2. Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn: Henry VIII, the famous Tudor king of England, was known for his six marriages. Anne Boleyn, his second wife, played her cards to curry favour with Henry and win his heart. She withheld her affections and refused to become his mistress, making her a desirable and unattainable prize in Henry’s eyes. Her strategy ultimately led to their marriage — with Henry even breaking from the Catholic Church to do so — and to her execution on May 19, 1536. She was accused of adultery, incest, and treason, although the charges were likely fabricated to justify her removal.
3. Benjamin Franklin and the French Court: During the American Revolution, Benjamin Franklin was sent to France as an ambassador to seek military and financial support. To curry favour with the French court, Franklin cultivated a persona as a simple, wise, and rustic American. He donned plain clothes and a fur cap, playing into French stereotypes of Americans. This charmed the French aristocracy, ultimately leading to their support for the American cause.
4. Rasputin and the Romanovs: Grigori Rasputin, a Russian mystic, successfully curried favour with the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II, and his wife, Tsarina Alexandra. Rasputin claimed to have healing powers, which he used to treat their hemophiliac son, Alexei. This won him the trust and favour of the Romanovs, allowing him significant influence over the royal family.
- to seek favour from by fawning, servile behaviour
abase oneself to, adulate, apple-polish, be all over, be obsequious (to, towards), be servile (to, towards), be sycophantic (to, towards), belaud, blarney, blandish, boot-lick, bow and scrape (to), bow to, brown-nose, butter up (to), consort with, court, crawl (to), cower, cringe, cultivate, CURRY FAVOUR (with), dance attendance on (upon), defer to, demean oneself (to), eat crow (dirt), fall all over (on one’s knees), flatter, fawn (on, over, upon), fuss, genuflect, get in with (on the good side of, on the right side of, in someone’s good books, round), go along with, grovel (to), hero-worship, honey (up), humour, humble oneself, ingratiate (oneself with), inveigle, keep company with (someone sweet), kiss one’s feet (the feet of, up to, up), kiss/lick someone’s boots, kowtow (to), lay it on (thick), make advances to, make much of (up to), massage, mix with, overpraise, pander (to), pamper, patronise, pay court (to), play up to, prevail on, prostrate on (oneself, oneself to), rub up the right way, run after, say uncle, scratch one’s back, seek the favour of (the friendship of), shine up to, schmooze, smoodge to, snivel, spread it on, stoop, stroke, suck up (to), sweet-talk, toady (to), try to get on the good side of, try to win over, truckle (to), win over (the favour of), work on, woo, wheedle
SMUGGLE OWAD into an English conversation, say something like:
“Attempts to CURRY FAVOUR during a hiring interview can seriously backfire and result in a lost job offer.”
THANKS to Ulrike for suggesting today’s word!
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