Thursday, July 12, 2012

Buttery Will Get You Everywhere

If you wanted to “butter someone up,” you would use words, not actual butter. Using actual butter would be inadvisable. Buttering up means paying someone a compliment in order to make them feel generous towards you. This is also known as flattery. It is not buttery. Buttery is a flavor reminiscent of the sweet, rich creaminess of high quality butter. To butter something up is a direct reference to making a dull slice of bread more edible with the application of dairy grease.

For flattery, a good approach is to remark on someone’s shoes — “I love those shoes, they do wonderful things for you,” you might say. You can’t go wrong with a shoe compliment. Male or female, doesn’t matter. The shoes could be hideous and do absolutely nothing for their wearer, but that’s beside the point. The point is to get what you want. It is an off-white lie with a tinge of gold. A lie the color of Lurpak.

People have been flattering one another for a very long time. “Those are a great pair of feet you’re sporting” was probably a pick-up line long before cobblers cobbled together shoes to hide them. “Why thank you,” the object of one’s affection probably replied, “your cave or mine?”

To flatter comes from the old French word flater, meaning to stroke with the hand or caress, from the Frankish word flat (palm; the flat of the hand). Humankind has no doubt been much advanced by such flattery, the good flatterers able to pass their suave genes on after a jolly night of buttering up and foot tickling.

But there is a downside to a diet of flattery: if you’re not careful, you could end up wanting both sides of your bread buttered, leaving you in a pickle. Or holding a pickle. (Or is it a hot potato?) On the one hand this; on the other, that. It would certainly make it hard to pick up your sandwich. While some social lubrication is good for making connections at a party (“excuse my greasy hands — oh! What lovely shoes you’re wearing!”), you can’t have too much of a good thing, or for the good thing to be spread too thin. We’re talking about butter here. Too cold and it’s reluctant; too warm and it wilts. Room temperature is just right.

While flattery is a handy tool to wield as part of your repartee repertoire, you must be sure not to overdo it and start fluffing it up. That is done to butter to accentuate its creaminess, but when done to people, simply makes things stiff. No-one likes to think you’re fluffing, or that they need you to do it. If you feel things start to get awkward, return your attention to the shoes. Cast your eyes down. “I’ve always wanted a pair of those,” you should confide. Then look back up. “Buttery will get you everywhere,” they’ll say. “Your place or mine?”

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