The return of SHANE’S EXCELLENT NEW WORDS: Sycophants and other brown-nosing spaniels.


Following is an encore presentation of the SHANE’S EXCELLENT NEW WORDS column from June 8, 2016.

The idea for a column about words and ideas dates to late 2015, when city attorney Shane Gibson took to social media to mockingly disparage the subversive notion of a healthy vocabulary, and to pillory those daring to use it, seeing as anyone with a broad working knowledge of the English language surely poses a mortal threat to the sportsball watchers at City Hall.

My sabbatical is the perfect time to resuscitate SHANE’S EXCELLENT NEW WORDS, and so I’ll seek to get back into the habit of posting on Wednesday. 

Welcome to another installment of GREG’s SHANE’S EXCELLENT NEW WORDS, a regular Wednesday feature at NA Confidential.

But why all these new words?

Why not the old, familiar, comforting words, like the ones you’re sure to hear at the golf course when brothers-in-law casually chat about their millions in epochal development plans for an unstable hillside?

It’s because a healthy vocabulary isn’t about intimidation through erudition. Rather, it’s about selecting the right word and using it correctly, whatever one’s pay grade or station in life.

Even remuneration-engorged municipal corporate attorneys are eligible for this enlightening expansion of personal horizons, and really, as we contemplate what they knew and when they knew it, all we have left is plenty of time — and the opportunity to learn something, if we’re so inclined.

Today’s word is sycophant, one of my personal favorites. Note the preferred pronunciation: SICK-uh-funt, or thereabouts. At the same time, you’ll occasionally encounter a PSYCHO-funt, but usually only at Democratic Party costume balls.


[sik-uh-fuh nt, -fant, sahy-kuh-]


1. a self-seeking, servile flatterer; fawning parasite.

Origin of sycophant 

1530-40; < Latin sȳcophanta < Greek sȳkophántēs informer, equivalent to sŷko (n) fig + phan- (stem of phaínein to show) + -tēs agentive suffix

Related forms
sycophantic, sycophantical, sycophantish, adjective
sycophantically, sycophantishly, adverb
sycophantism, noun

The list of synonyms for sycophant is especially entertaining and colorful: Yes-man, bootlicker, brown-noser, toady, lickspittle, flatterer, flunky, lackey, spaniel, doormat, stooge, cringer, suck, suck-up.

There’s even an academic article: “Grovelling And Other Vices: The Sociology Of Sycophancy.” Here is a sample sentence:

When the sycophants start calling you a malcontent, there is a sense of pure vindication.