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Here in Brazil we call people like this "puxa-saco" (bag dragger?), meaning someone who invariably sides with and supports their bosses, often going against co-workers or employees in general, in an attempt to get recognition, be promoted, whatever. Often the boss doesn't trust them, but keeps them around as a self-maintained policing agent. Often they are quickly fired too.

Today I had an experience with a person like this. I went to see a person who happens to own a property around here and they were there, but sleeping. All I wanted to do was to ask for permission to enter the property and take close-up pictures from some beautiful trees inside the property.

I was received by an employee and he was extremely concerned about my presence there and my wanting to take photos therein. He talked and acted as if it was a mortal sin to ask that and even told me his boss would call the police if he saw anyone inside the property... Except that I was going there specifically to ask for permission.

I bet his boss wouldn't be half as worried as he was, at most he would deny me permission to enter the property, which is fine.

So that's what I wanted to know. Employees who act like that, what would you call them in English?

EDIT:

First, thanks for all the answers so far. I haven't decided yet which is better but all people who answered my question so far gave valuable answers.

It seems, however, that some people need more context on what I said, as they inferred stuff I did not write, or somehow understood me in a way I did not intend to be perceived.

DESCRIPTION

The property lay by the road, at the town's entrance. There are no walls, only a barbed wire fence around the pasture, and walking further, alongside the road, there's an alley that leads into the property.

Down that alley there are some stables and a house somewhere behind them.

The owner sells some goods he produces there, like milk and manure, a lad well known to the city folks.

There was no reason for the employee to be concerned. I met him as he was walking the alley up and out the property. As I see him I walk it down, but no further than he himself has walked up, then I stop, clearly signalling I wait him so we can talk.

As he gets near me he says nothing, so I say hi and politely ask him over his boss' whereabouts. He looked calm, on an okay mood until then, but immediately frowns upon me and tells me upfront that his boss was sleeping, as if it was personal to him that his boss not be disturbed. That struck me as odd though, it was 3 in the noon and the day was bright, who sleeps by then!?

Not impossible, but not customary either...

He proceeds to ask me why I want to see him, acting passive aggressively already, while I just don't get why.

I tell him why, he gets even more so... the most awkward!

Soon I'm talking to this pretentious mediator between a plebeian and some sort of king. If I could describe his stance with one word, it's unnecessary...

To make it all the more comic, the guy's wearing old work outfits, full of manure and dirt, the vision of an unimpressive rural worker. Totally okay, don't get me wrong, except that he acts as if he's the property manager and instead of a small farm, the whole matter is about a mansion or a castle...

At that moment I wished I had his boss walking up the alley instead, I sure would have had a better conversation...

EDIT 2:

I think the more info I add, the harder it's getting for readers to understand the context.

Bear in mind that when one experiences a situation, there are emotional and non-verbal cues that can't be transmitted in full via a written account. I was there and know the undertones of the situation. I felt offended by someone to whom I acted kind and respectful. I bet there's a ton of people around who'd just hop over the fence and take the photos right away.

Now, I said something about the lad's clothes and may have gotten misinterpreted. There's nothing wrong with working in farms and getting dirty. I myself work in the farms during the rainy seasons, and I get home just as dirty. That's a common job around here, the town has only 4 thousand inhabitants and most of us live off rural activities, my family included. My father, for instance, produces and sells vegetables.

The problem I was trying to portray is that I felt disgusted by the lad's attitude. Looking at him made me feel even more disgusted... "Who the hell does he think he is?" was my thought. I went there to ask for permission, exactly because I didn't want to be invasive, trespassing someone else's property. I know his boss is cool. During weekdays, people walk down that alley to buy cabbages, milk and such from him. The thing is, it was saturday, and I was going to take photos, so that might bother the owner, so let me not do that and ask what his thoughts are first, I thought.

Then as soon as that man learns what my purposes are, immediately frowns at me and gets pretentious, conceited, curt and unfriendly, talking in a kind of angry, agressive undertonte and purporting himself to be great mediator between a presumed idiot who wants to take photos from trees (because who does these silly things anyway?) and the most important personality in the town.

That's how it felt. It was uncomfortable, I felt offended and I didn't understand the need for him to act like that towards me.

As I got home I was still thinking about that weirdo. I was not resented, but thought to myself: "That was a great puxa-saco I met there". Immediately afterwards I thought it might be exciting to know what word might be like "puxa-saco" in English. So I turned the computer on and asked this question...

I hope I was clear this time around.

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    I'm not sure how the example fits the premise of the question...the guy sounds like some kind of caretaker protecting the property from trespassers. – Cascabel Jan 17 at 13:38

13 Answers 13

9

I discount the too-obvious sycophant because it does not necessarily have the overtones of being a servant.

Sycophant = someone who praises powerful or rich people in a way that is not sincere, usually in order to get some advantage from them

Cambridge dictionary

Minion is relevant but does not give the complete feel of your description.

minion = a person who is not important and who has to do what another person of higher rank orders them to do

Cambridge Dictionary

There are several other candidates. Your choice may depend on context. Here are three:

Lackey = a servant or someone who behaves like one by obeying someone else's orders or by doing unpleasant work for them

Cambridge Dictionary

Flunkey =
a person who does unimportant work or who has few or no important responsibilities and shows too much respect toward his or her employer

Cambridge Dictionary

Hanger-on = a person who tries to be friendly and spend time with rich or important people to get some advantage

Cambridge Dictionary

hanger-on is similar to sycophant. flunkey or lackey seem best to fit your example, with lackey implying a little of the ill-informed awkward aggression (the "unpleasant work" of the definition) that you describe.

Lower down the employment scale we might have goon, but they tend to be employed specifically for their aggressive role. The usage is stronger in America than on the eastern side of the Atlantic.

Goon = man hired to terrorize or eliminate opponents

Merriam Webster

In slang, we also find

Junkyard-dog = (idiomatic, by extension, hyphenated when used attributively) An animal or person with an especially nasty and combative demeanor.

Your dictionary

I like this one because it combines the elements of canine dependency on the master with the mindless aggression of defending territory. I have heard it used as yard-dog but find no source.

3
  • I'm accepting your question, because although I think there are undertones the weren't captured here and there are other answers that are very to the point too, I think your answer is the most interesting because you try to enclose the meaning and connotations expressed by providing terms that might address specific attitudes I might have observed. – Otter Jan 19 at 15:03
  • Thank you. The other answers are generally excellent and enjoyable and I claim no pre-eminence on this one. Clearly, your question is well posed and stimulating, – Anton Jan 19 at 15:07
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    In other words, instead of trying to provide synonyms you think describe the case, you provided a range of words and let me see which fits best. It appears the lad displayed features of a flunkey and a junkyard-dog, (from your answer), as well as of a bootlicker, a toady or simply an obsequious person, as noted in the excellent answers provided by other contributors. Thank you all for the valuable discussion. – Otter Jan 19 at 15:09
23

brown-nose (brown-noser) informal an extremely obsequious person.

obsequious obedient or attentive to an excessive or servile degree.

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    I feel like brown-nosing is directly fawning over the boss, or at least where the boss is sure to notice. In this case the boss will never even know what the employee did. Brownose is perfect for the title, but not the description below – Owen Reynolds Jan 18 at 5:26
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    @OwenReynolds the original question wasn't phrased like it is now. – Kamil.S Jan 18 at 7:19
  • @Kamil S Thanks for the answer, although I edited the question twice, I learned a new word (brown-nose) – Otter Jan 19 at 14:45
  • Had I not edited the question to provide further context, I'd feel compelled to approve this answer. Both brown-nose and especially obsequious appear to fit the original question perfectly. I edited the question so as to have it more uniform and congruent, also changing it's title, which inevitably took it away from the context @Kamil.S encountered at first. I approved another answer, but still, you take my and the community's upvotes as proof you provided a valuiable, to the point answer. Thank you. – Otter Jan 19 at 15:18
  • It can also be ‘a brown-noser’. – Fivesideddice Jan 20 at 6:36
13

From your first paragraph he sounds like an a*se-licker, a crawler, a toady or a lickspittle.

From your next three paragraphs he is clearly a jobsworth. I have met him!

More on jobsworths at Wikipedia.

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    As I read the definition of the last word you provided, I felt it was quite spot on, although I felt I may not have properly contextualised the whole situation and edited the question before I read your definition. I'll read the other definitions more carefully and wait to see if any other answer comes in, but up to this moment there's more than one answer that seems to fit and I'm quite sleepy, so I'll approve an answer later. Anyways, good answer, I really liked it. – Otter Jan 18 at 4:35
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    Besides that, in the first half of your answer you provided some other words I think are worth looking up carefully too. That adds value up to people looking into this question in the future. But again, I feel there are several good answers here, I'll check it later to see which should I accept. – Otter Jan 18 at 4:37
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    Want to mention that Jobsworth isn't a term most people would know. Toady is well-known -- it's an employee who follows orders, even bad ones. Lickspittle is old -- people will thing you're being funny. And a**-licker is less common and means the same thing as brown-noser. – Owen Reynolds Jan 18 at 5:32
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    @OwenReynolds I wouldn't say that at all. I don't know where you're based, but I'm in the UK and the term jobsworth is widely understood here. The phrase it's derived from, "it's more than my job's worth", is also in common usage. – Matthew Daly Jan 18 at 14:15
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    @OwenReynolds "Want to mention that Jobsworth isn't a term most people would know" I beg to differ! Perhaps it depends on which country you're in. – Asteroids With Wings Jan 19 at 19:06
10

bootlicker is the word that immediately comes to mind.

A person who behaves in a servile or obsequious manner; a toady (by extension) Anyone who is seen as supporting authoritarianism.

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/bootlicker

I also like the synonym wiktionary suggested - "toady".

Another option is a yes-man:

a person who agrees with everything that is said especially: one who endorses or supports without criticism every opinion or proposal of an associate or superior

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/yes-man

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    Anecdotally, I believe bootlicker is a much more common term than any of the other ones offered so far. – Peter Jan 18 at 19:52
  • I think bootlicker, toady or simply obsequious are all words that fit the original question's premise. I reworded the question since I realised I asked one thing and described another, as users have noticed, but overall your answer was on point. If it does not look so it's because I edited it. – Otter Jan 19 at 14:52
9

Suck-up is probably the most common colloquial word for this:

a person who is ingratiating or fawning

I'm surprised no other answer mentions it.

6

From the description of the situation given, one thing you could call the person you encountered would be a "hall monitor". In the US this is a job given to a child while in elementary school where they sit at chair or bench in school hallways, checking to be certain that any other children who are seen in the hall have appropriate permission to be there, in the form of a "hall pass" or some other badge or document. Those who run afoul of the hall monitor will be "reported" to a teacher or other adult for punishment. Children who are given this job and perform it exceptionally diligently are not well thought of by other students, often being categorized as "self-important little gits" or other derogatory terms.

6

I was received by an employee and he was extremely concerned about my presence there and my wanting to take photos therein. He talked and acted as if it was a mortal sin to ask that and even told me his boss would call the police if he saw anyone inside the property...

Employees who act like that, what would you call them in English?

That employee was either a guard or caretaker, and responsible for safe-guarding the property.

It sounds like you tried to bully him into doing something against the owner's wishes.

He was only doing his job.

I would call that:

vigilant

keeping careful watch for possible danger or difficulties. Ex. "the burglar was spotted by vigilant neighbors"

Where I live (Latin-America, like you), if I awoke to find some stranger on my property within the high walls and gate... I would check with my security system, call the police, and then deliver the limp bodies. After that I would fire the guardian.

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  • Just a note for North-Americans and Europeans...in Latin-America the most common points of intrusion during burglaries and home invasions originate with the hired help. – Cascabel Jan 17 at 19:54
5

I would call them a toady.

Definition:

Definition of toady (Entry 1 of 2) : one who flatters in the hope of gaining favors

Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/toady

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  • Literally have never heard someone use this term. Maybe it's common outside of the USA? – rinogo Jan 18 at 19:24
  • @rinogo I never heard it either, but as several users have brought it up in their answers or comments, I think it's a relatively well known word. – Otter Jan 19 at 14:58
5

A late answer: that person could be called a tin god.

Lexico has

tin god
NOUN

1 A person, especially a minor official, who is pompous and self-important.

MacMillan has

tin god
NOUN COUNTABLE

1 Someone who behaves as if they are much more important or powerful than they really are.

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  • I like this one! – user405662 Jan 19 at 19:39
2

Similar to other terms, butt-kisser.

Someone who "kisses ass" to impress one person or group, usually having the upper hand, with little regard to what it might cost them or whether the object of their affection is right.

No exact match, but I have heard it used often on TV and real life: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/ass-kisser

[I also answered based on the heading, as the paragraph of additional info seem to describe a loyal worker.]

2

How about minion?

a servile dependent, follower, or underling

He's one of the boss's minions.

OR

myrmidon, defined by the same source [Merriam-Webster] as—

a loyal follower

especially : a subordinate who executes orders unquestioningly or unscrupulously

0

loyalist

a person who is loyal; a supporter of the sovereign or of the existing government, especially in time of revolt.

https://www.dictionary.com/browse/loyalist?s=t

0

After all the incredible insistence from most of the other answers on vilifying this employee's behaviour I will maintain that this person does not deserve to be incriminated to such an extent and therefore that the terms proposed do not apply. An employee has to obey orders; there is nothing in this context telling us that this employee did not carry out his duty faithfully as far as refusing to the visitor to take pictures. It is not clear whether the employee was informed in due time that a permission was being asked.

Granted the fact that he understood that a permission was being asked he had possibly been badly briefed and reacted in an irresponsible way: as the permission could only be obtained from his employer he should have known whether he could interrupt his sleep or not, and his consequent behaviour should have been to inform the visitor of the possibilities (come back later, wait a while, no permission in any case, whatever). Instead, for no apparent reason he was impolite, tried to make the visitor feel guilty.
It might even be supposed that feeling somehow helpless and fearing to be overcome by a persuasive interlocutor, not wanting to fail to his duty, he should have seen no other course of action than that of trying to be impressive, which, however, it must be said, if that was the case, he didn't succeed to do in an acceptable manner.

I only see a case for the gruff, devious behaviour of an employee.

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  • I honestly gave all the context I felt there had to be given. He felt more like "you don't enter our property if I say so, cause I said it and just because..." In other words, he was rude and curt. – Otter Jan 20 at 14:12
  • @EzequielBarbosa Yes, I think there can't be any doubt about that: he was rude and curt; I do make that clear, although in terms a bit different (impolite, unacceptable, gruff). More objectionable yet was his apparent dishonesty in trying to make you feel guilty of a fault that obviously you couldn't have committed. – LPH Jan 20 at 14:21
  • I see your concerns. If it helps you, right there in the moment we talked, I felt confused by his reaction and I couldn't and still can't say why he didn't just act "normal", like "Oh, he's sleeping now, you can come back later if you want, at such time", which is what I wanted to hear. Or maybe "forget about it, he sure won't like the idea of people taking photos in there", or whatever else. So I'm left wondering just as you are... some people just tick in mysterious ways, I guess. – Otter Jan 20 at 14:32
  • @EzequielBarbosa Anyway, whatever his precise motivation, his behaviour does not correspond to the terms that have been used. He was certainly not obsequious to you nor did he behave as a so called brown nose and we know absolutely nothing of his behaviour towards his boss. All those terms are way too much, as I see the situation. – LPH Jan 20 at 14:38
  • Another thing that could probably be is that his boss may have given precautionary advice on just banishing anyone he did not know, in which case he indeed did his job effectively. But honestly, it could be a million other reasons though. We can't know what goes on on other people's mind. At last, I say that I would have appreciated some courtesy on his part. With subltety and directness, you can tell someone to fuck off without being rude. – Otter Jan 20 at 14:39

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