Is there a saying or proverb for when a person or group of people act politely and with respect towards a certain member of a group in front of a person of respect or elder, and then acts with disrespect and completely differently towards that same member of the group when the respected elder is not around? It involves being two-faced and a kiss-ass. "When the cat's away, the mice come out and play" isn't a good fit, yet has some elements of what I'm trying to describe. Is there a saying in another language that might work?

  • "When the cat's away..." refers to the bad behaviour phase without the elder. Presumably you're asking about the good behaviour? The "When the cat's in view..." phase? [Actually those five words sound like a good start if a rhyme can be found!] – Andrew Leach Dec 9 '14 at 16:54
  • So what's wrong with "two-faced"? – Hot Licks Dec 9 '14 at 17:40
  • Depending on whether you approve or disapprove of such behavior in a particular case, you might refer to the person as being "socially graceful" or "a damned hypocrite." – Sven Yargs Dec 9 '14 at 21:37
  • there's some amount of lip service, but that doesn't quite fit. – Erich May 9 '15 at 11:56
  • also, shakespeare's iago played this role, but much more vengefully. – Erich May 9 '15 at 11:59

If your audience consists of those conversant with classic American television, this type of behavior could be described as being a regular Eddie Haskell (or "acting like Eddie Haskell"). Eddie Haskell is an archetypal character from the classic early TV show "Leave It To Beaver" whose defining characteristic was exactly the type of behavior you describe.


I'd like to suggest you combine an adjective denoting "two-faced" and a noun denoting "kiss-ass."

Adjectives for two-faced (besides "two-faced" itself):






Nouns denoting kiss-ass (besides "kiss-ass" itself):






Thus you can generate a variety of epithets, like:

Barry is such a backstabbing sycophant.

I can't believe what a lying booklicker Sheila is.

Don't be such a deceptive flatterer. Tell the boss how you really feel.


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