• toady •
tow-dee • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A sycophant, a self-serving, servile, and ingratiating person who constantly flatters in order to gain some advantage.
Notes: Today's Good Word seems to have gone out of style even though toadying itself still persists. We do need this word, so let's not let it slip into oblivion. We can even use it as a verb meaning "to grovel" and, by simply adding the suffix -ish, convert it to a handy adjective meaning "like a toady": toadyish. The behavior itself is known as toadyism, but I would prefer toadiness, as in, "Why, yes, Your Toadiness, whatever your heart desires." Be sure to switch the [y] for an [i] in the plural of today's word: toadies.
In Play: Where I come from (down South) toads are no longer considered poisonous, but they are considered by many the cause of warts: "I'm not surprised the boss has warts on his hand, surrounded as he is by so many toadies." It is not that we lack synonyms: boot-licker, brown-noser and apple-polisher immediately jump to mind. But why resort to such complex compounds when we can keep it simple with today's Good Word: "That toady Maureen brings the teacher an apple every day and tells her how nice she looks."
Word History: Before medical degrees and certified doctors, those who knew or pretended to know medicine had to prove their knowledge on the spot. Toads were thought to be poisonous, so charlatans would have an assistant pretend to swallow a toad so that the 'doctor' could extract the poison and miraculously save the assistant's life. Since eating a toad even then was considered unpleasant, those who ate toads quickly took on the reputation of someone who would do anything for a superior. Toadeater first appeared around 1629 and quickly became the metaphor for a fawning sycophant. By the end of that century, it was already being whittled down to a simple toady, where it has remained to this day.