I had to laugh this evening when Greta Van Susteren got Presidential candidate John Huntsman to admit he was probably flattering President Obama when he wrote a letter describing him as "exceptional" shortly after his inaguration in 2008. Then Greta added, "in elementary school, we used to call that apple polishing."
Apple polishers! There is a not so nice name for similar behavior: brown-nosers. If you don't know what that means, this is not the blog for you. You'll have to go on over to the Urban Dictionary or see: Eddie Haskell.
In order to understand what apple-polisher means, it helps to know that students used to bring apples to their teachers. A student bringing a very nicely-polished apple was probably either getting horrible grades, or afraid of getting them.
The US Apple Association has a list of a number of popular sayings related to apples. Some of what appears to be internet apocrypha (i.e. - it's on the Internet, so it must be true!) tries to explain the tradition of giving an apple to a favorite teacher. A polished apple! These stories say that in the U.S., Sweden and Denmark during the 17th and 18th centuries, teachers were not well-paid, so parents gave apples to their children to give to the teacher as a form of appreciation . . . or possibly so the teacher wouldn't starve to death. The random selection of U.S., Sweden and Denmark makes me suspect this tale.
Another story says, "Some people associate apples with teachers because of the Bible, which says that Eve ate the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge." Of course! I completely agree, and also agree that bad teachers should receive a sardine. Or liver treats.