What is the colloquial/casual/conversational form of the word "compliment" in this context:

A: I hate John.

B: Why? He's like a genius.

A: Exactly! He's such a teacher's pet. He's always gotta answer all the questions and Ms. Johnson is always complimenting him.

Here in Japan the phrase "Ms. Johnson is always complimenting him" carries a negative nuance. And this dialogue does not sound natural to me at all. School kids do not use the word compliment in this context as Japanese kids do.

  • 3
    Not really colloquial, but a more common word for what a teacher says to a student is "praise". ...and Ms. Johnson is always praising him.
    – Marthaª
    Commented Feb 18, 2011 at 17:39
  • I thought of the word praise except a student never says to another student, " I hate Jimmy cause ms. Johnaon's always praising him. One reason being, "praise " has religious conotations. Commented Feb 18, 2011 at 18:44
  • 2
    A student never says that to another student? Are you sure? Are you sure? Are you sure? Are you... sorry, too much IT Crowd ;-) Seriously, are you sure? Your reason doesn't, IMHO, hold much water, since this connotation isn't that strong in this day and age: in other words: not many non-church-goers would think of religion when they hear "praise" in the context we're talking of Commented Feb 18, 2011 at 19:32
  • 1
    I think we might refer to it as a "backhanded compliment" or even "damning with faint praise". Commented Dec 31, 2013 at 18:32
  • @ElliottFrisch +1 for backhanded compliment; personally I don't think 'damning with faint praise' fits here though Commented Dec 15, 2014 at 19:44

6 Answers 6


I can't think of a word replacement for compliment that carries a negative connotation, but I can restructure your dialog slightly:

A: I hate John. B: why? He's like a genius. A: exactly! He's such a teachers pet. He's always kissing up to Ms. Johnson and she totally rewards him for it.

I am not sure that receiving compliments is considered negative in the US, the negativity comes from asking for compliments (often referred to as "fishing") or accepting them without humility.

  • Thanks, this is more along the lines of what I was looking for. Or maybe, "and ms. Johnson's always bragging about him to the class. Maybe?? Commented Feb 18, 2011 at 18:47
  • yes, bragging about him publicly would be a source of problems. Even "Always gives him too many compliments" would work.
    – horatio
    Commented Feb 18, 2011 at 18:49

What about, give him props? As in,

"I had to give him props for finishing a 50-page paper in a single late-nighter."

One often hears "props" used colloquially as a replacement for the word "compliment" in urban slang.

  • 1
    and suburban slang too :) I would vote this as authentic teen-speak
    – horatio
    Commented Feb 18, 2011 at 18:47
  • Yes, if I was asking for an expression with a positive nuance I would have totally chosen this one. Thanks Billare. Commented Feb 20, 2011 at 7:56

In this sense, something along the lines of Brownie points would seem to fit the bill. It has that combination of childishness, contempt (from peers) and favoritism (from the teacher) that you'd expect from 'tweens and teens.

  • Yeah, this is clearly the best answer (so far). It even hearkens to the student-teacher relationship; the thought of brownies and grade school are strongly intertwined in my mind. Mmm. Brownies.
    – Uticensis
    Commented Feb 18, 2011 at 18:45

I would say "to pay somebody a compliment" (we also say "to receive/accept/acknowledge a compliment") . Also, when someone "pays a compliment" to us, we might consider "repaying/returning" the compliment. Well, these are the colloquial phrases that come into my mind regarding "compliment". Hope this helps.

  • 1
    But would a student actually say to another student, " I hate John because the teacher is always paying him compliments"? That just doesn't sound normal. Commented Feb 18, 2011 at 18:12

An informal word for compliment is kudos. I have never heard it used as verb (as in [?] he was kudosing her), but you can say to receive kudos, to get kudos, to give kudos, or similar phrases.

  • Ok would a student say," I hate John cause the teacher is always giving him kudos "? Commented Feb 18, 2011 at 18:13
  • No, you probably wouldn't hear a student say this. My 15 year old daughter would occasionally use "kudos," but not in this manner.
    – horatio
    Commented Feb 18, 2011 at 18:31

The word I would choose to replace "complimenting" is "flattering":

Exactly! He's such a teachers pet. He's always gotta answer all the questions and Ms. Johnson is always flattering him.

"Flattering" carries extremely negative connotations and is almost never a good thing to give or receive. (Exceptions arise when flirting.)

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