Proverbs 19: To Curry Favor or Carry Favor?

As I was reading Proverbs 19 (NIV), I came across the following verse:

6 Many curry favor with a ruler,
and everyone is the friend of one who gives gifts.

On scanning the first portion of this verse, the grammar mafia in my head started screeching

“Isn’t there a typo? Shouldn’t it be, ‘Many carry favor’ and not ‘Many curry favor’? What does spicy food even have to do with this scenario?”

So diligent me proceeded to draft a message notifying of this “typo.”

Proverbs 19 typo

Before clicking “Submit,” it occurred to me, what if this isn’t a typo?

Not wanting to look the fool, I googled the phrase “to curry favor” and lo and behold, it’s a legitimate idiom … English is clearly NOT my first language!

What does “currying favor” mean?


Having accepted my foolishness, I looked up “to curry favor” in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and realized it has nothing to do with Indian food; its meaning:

to seek or gain favor by flattery or attention; aka to suck up, boot lick, apple-polish, brown-nose, kiss up … you get the gist.

Currying favor in today’s world

We’ve all seen it happen. People getting recognition or promotions due to “apple-polishing” instead of performance. It started in elementary school and continues into the workplace. It’s pervasive in church and politics. It manifests as favoritism towards the rich and powerful.

What do currying favor tactics look like? Flattery, mimicry, adoration, buying of gifts and goodies, and at the extreme end: bribery and extortion.

Currying favor is part of life, and has its pay offs. In my opinion, if you are to gain favor with your boss and peers, focus on becoming indispensable—add value, help out, work hard, be a person of integrity.

What are your thoughts? Is currying favor good or bad? Ineffective or effective? Do you even use this idiom in daily conversation?


2 thoughts on “Proverbs 19: To Curry Favor or Carry Favor?

  1. In Asia, currying favor is called “guanxi.” People use it all the time. They buy gifts for one another, use flattery, etc. They do so hoping that, someday, this will come back to them as a kind of good karma. It’s interesting. I think currying favor is good when it’s genuine. But if you’re only doing something in the hopes of getting something back, the true meaning is lost. And that’s a shame.


    • I guess some of it is cultural. Or maybe even some kind of blessing…like in my culture (and many others I’m sure), it’s bad manners to go to someone’s home empty handed. But I do agree that the motive is the deciding factor…to be meaningful, giving should be selfless, expecting nothing in return.

      How do you pronounce “guanxi”? I love learning words from different languages. Thanks 🙂


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